When it comes to managing your finances in business, knowledge really is power. And this is never more the case than when you are signing agreements to sell your products and services.
As a creditor, the main thing you want to know is whether you are going to be paid fairly and on time. The last thing any business wants to do is get into an arrangement and end up not getting paid.
Cashflow is the very lifeblood of your business, if it runs low a business will struggle to continue. If it runs out it will cause a corporate “heart attack” and kill even a profitable business stone dead.
So what can you do to minimise the impact on your business when you are faced with a short term cashflow problem?
Credit Insurance can be a valuable tool in a company’s credit control armoury and recent years have seen an explosion in availability of different types of cover.
From traditional Whole Turnover to Catastrophe or Single and Multi Buyer cover brokers can now offer a variety of policies to suit most businesses.
When it comes to cashflow, it isn’t just about ensuring your invoices are paid on time. It encompasses the entire flow of money in and out of your business and covers your businesses dealings with your own suppliers.
So do you treat your suppliers as you would like to be treated?
After ensuring your company really knows your customer, knowing when you can expect your invoices to be paid is the next step in an effective credit control process.
Agreeing payment terms in advance helps to ensure both parties accept and understand their obligations and allows for the creditor to forecast the arrival of funds, a key survival strategy in today’s turbulent economy.
The Experian Late Payment Index published on Monday shows again that the bigger a company is, the later it is likely to pay its suppliers, making for a timely reminder of the true nature of 'brand power' and its potential negative impact on small companies' cash flow.
In the third quarter of 2013, the smallest firms, with just one or two employees, paid an average of 20.62 days beyond agreed terms on overdue invoices - the smallest delay among UK companies of all sizes, and a slight improvement from 20.78 days in the previous quarter.
Slow payments represent a substantial risk to small and medium-sized businesses, who must often meet the cost of materials and labour for a month or more while waiting for customers to settle invoices.
But SMB cash flows were recently given what seemed to be a much-needed shot in the arm, in the form of the Prompt Payment Code - a commitment from big firms to pay their invoices as soon as reasonably possible, rather than withholding important funds from their SMB suppliers.
The world of credit control brings to mind the infamous Donald Rumsfeld quote:
"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know."
Admittedly he was talking about weapons of mass destruction, but the same applies to your customers' financial situations, and effective credit control eliminates as much of the 'unknown' as possible, and maximises the 'known knowns'.
A recently published Late Payments Report makes 11 recommendations that MPs believe could help small businesses to receive what they are owed more promptly from their big-business customers.
MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth Debbie Abrahams convened and chaired a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the issue of prompt payment for small businesses, which heard evidence from several large FTSE companies, as well as affected SMEs.
We regularly speak to Freelancers and Contractors who are uncertain on how to handle the credit control process after an invoice has been issued. Credit Control (occasionally called "Dunning") is no black art and it is simply a mix of common sense and a considered approach to ensuring any monies are paid in full and on time.
Below you will find an easy to understand infographic outlining a suggested process for any contractor issuing invoices on 30 day terms. If your business terms are longer or shorter then just adjust the steps below to suit your client.