Getting paid - the age-old problem
How do manufacturers speed up their inward payment process without appearing too pushy or losing customers?...
It's the long-standing problem that affects all small businesses. You produce and deliver the goods, issue an invoice, and then wait for payment.
And sometimes wait some more.
And then you ask Mrs Miggins in accounts to make a phone call.
And before you know it, it has run into three months.
Wouldn't it be lovely to get three months' free credit at your local supermarket or petrol station for your weekly shop.
One of the standard methods employed by debtors is to pay invoices at the end of the month following invoice. This means that if you supply and invoice, for example, on the 4th of the month, you are left waiting up to eight weeks for payment. And if you pay your suppliers promptly yourself to take advantage of an early settlement discount, this discount is eroded as you try and make up those weeks while you in turn wait to be paid.
Whether it is interesting or disturbing that Debenhams announced recently that those who offer the biggest discounts will get paid more quickly by the group, remains to be seen.
Should you be obliged to offer a discount just to get what is rightly yours in the first place, namely, settlement of invoice? You've decided the price you want for your goods, you've supplied them on time, the client can then use those goods you've provided, so why should your price be eroded by having to offer a discount?
If you went inot a pub and told the landlord that you want 7Âœ% discount otherwise you'll pay him at the end of the month following your drink, he'd say you were barmy!
Factoring - where you engage a third party to invoice on your behalf, they pay you immediately and then do the chasing if they don't get paid - is not the most ideal solution. Yes, perhaps for large conglomerates who purposefully delay processing your invoice and who have a relatively faceless accounts department well-used to being continually chased by creditors.
But if you are dealing with small companies that are in the same cash-flow boat as yourself, factoring can be mildly off-putting. And sometimes off-putting to the extent that your client will go elsewhere to avoid being hassled. And then there's the commission you have to pay to the factoring company.
So do you need to think about, pardon the pun, factoring-in a product discount at the outset in order to guarantee a speedier payment?
The other alternative is to have Mrs Miggins hassle your client to the extent that they become upset and go to another supplier anyway?
The one way to try and speed things up is to simply mention at the outset that, as a small manufacturer with goods to pay for and salaries to fulfil, you would appreciate if your customers might be able to follow prompt payment guidelines laid down by Prompt Payment Code to which you are a signatory (http://www.promptpaymentcode.org.uk), as you in turn respect the code when paying others and don't wish to appear to break the chain.
But whatever you do, do not change your rules with a client in mid-supply.
Communicate with them and explain. It is surprising how understanding many can be!