Small businesses are extremely vulnerable to cash flow problems, and even the slightest slip in payment dates can leave the business unable to pay its suppliers and even staff salaries. In many cases, big suppliers don’t pay their smaller suppliers quickly enough to keep the small businesses running, and as a result the small business finds it simply can’t make ends meet.
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.
Remember our old friend the Supply Chain Finance Scheme? Well, in the past couple of weeks, it's been making headlines once again - this time thanks to Carillion, the facilities management and construction services company.
The Daily and Sunday Telegraph have launched a series of articles reporting on late payments - and on the battle lines being drawn by those affected by and involved in settling overdue invoices.
In a Daily Telegraph report, for instance, Steve Sutherland - owner of architectural glazing specialist Dortech - is described as "putting his tin hat on" amid fears of a backlash from customers after he called time on a 13-year relationship with construction brand Balfour Beatty.
If you're a small-business owner and you've never heard of the Supply Chain Finance Scheme, announced today, sit down and put anything breakable well out of reach, because you're going to want to smash something pretty soon.
The SCFS is one of those initiatives that you hear about, think "how the hell did they come up with that?", and then realise it was a government idea.