Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Late payment doesn't need to be an issue

Shropshire firms who are struggling with late payments should consider changing their terms and conditions to avoid the issue.

Andrew Oranjuik from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, said a survey of 3000 SMEs in eleven countries had revealed that UK firms are the worst affected by late payments.

“The survey showed that almost one in five of all invoices paid to small companies are late, and around 10% of the invoices become bad debts. To make matters worse, not only are small firms battling with late payment but they also spend an average of 15 days a year chasing up the money they are owed.”

Mr Oranjuik said another survey had shown that SMEs in the UK were paid on average 18 days late, compared to nine days in the rest of Europe.

“It’s a very difficult situation because some SMEs may feel awkward about chasing up outstanding accounts – maybe you don’t want to jeopardise your relationship with the client, or maybe you simply don’t have the time or capacity to do it. But there are steps you can take that could help resolve the issue without the need to resort to tough tactics.”

Mr Oranjuik said some companies offered incentives to encourage customers to pay quickly.

“You could donate a small percentage of the balance to charity, or offer discounts to customers who settle their bill within seven days rather than the recognised term of 30 days. But this is a risk of course because clients who pay on time may find out and could demand discounts too. And why should you take a financial hit because your clients can’t pay on time?

“So think logically about how to make it easier for customers to pay on time – start by making it as simple as possible for them to make a payment, and ensure you send your invoice to the right person.

“And have you considered reducing your terms of payment? 30 days has been the accepted timeframe for a long time, but given that invoices and banking are now often electronic, it’s possible to speed up the process.

“Try reducing your terms to 14 days – the customers who tend to pay later than 30 days may still pay late, but if they pay their bill before 30 days then at least your cash flow will have improved.”