Seven steps to getting paid – Debt recovery & collection
Key points in this article
- Reconsider whether you should offer credit
- Look at your payment terms again
- Don’t be afraid to cut off credit
These seven steps can help strengthen your cash flow and eliminate debt problems before they occur.
1. Do you need to offer credit at all?
Depending on the type of business you run, you may be able to reduce the number of credit accounts you offer and if possible, avoid extending credit at all.
Getting payment at the point of sale improves your cash flow and eliminates the possibility of having to chase people for payment.
Accepting credit cards can be a straightforward way to offer your customers credit. You can accept card sales through your smartphone or tablet with the ANZ FastPay™ app.
Extending credit to customers can reduce your cash cycle – a key component of a successful business
2. Be careful who you extend credit to
If you're going to extend credit, your customers should complete a credit application.
Ask a supplier if you can use their form as a guide, or get a free sample from a local debt collection agency. Include your terms of trade and ask your lawyer and accountant to suggest improvements.
Check credit referees to make sure the customer has paid promptly in the past. If the customer refuses any of your terms, it’s your business decision whether to take the risk of supplying on credit. If in any doubt, ask a credit agency for a credit check on a prospective customer.
3. Improve your invoicing
Customers won’t pay until they’ve been invoiced, so the sooner you invoice, the sooner you can get paid. A common mistake is to see the sale as everything and forget about invoicing until much later. There’s no reason to wait – invoice as soon as you've made the sale.
4. Revise your terms
There’s no need to stick to the tradition of ‘payment by the 20thof the month following invoice date.'
Changing your payment terms to 'payment within x days' may help improve cash flow.
Asking for ‘payment by the 20th of the month following invoice date’ also means it could be up to 50 days before you know there’s a problem. In the meantime, the customer may have bought more from you, adding to their debt.
Payment terms are linked to your cash cycle so be sure you’ve got them right for your business
5. Reconsider statements
Repeated end of month statements simply summarise what the customer owes. This extra administrative step costs time and money, so why not eliminate it by stating at the bottom of your invoices in bold: ‘Please pay on this invoice as no statement will be sent.'
Some customers – typically larger ones who receive multiple invoices from you – may try to insist on end of month statements, but most will happily pay against an invoice.
6. Don’t be afraid to cut off credit
Adopt a consistent policy of refusing to supply customers who are seriously overdue and who haven’t responded to your follow-up. Insist that the outstanding debt be settled first before you choose to supply more goods.
Putting a black and white policy in place will be best for your business in the long term
7. Minimise your risk by avoiding these traps
Beware of large orders
If you commit significant resources to fulfilling a large order and payment is delayed, your business may be at substantial risk. Ensure you’ve carried out credit checks and received guarantees. If possible ask for a deposit or arrange for progress payments – this will improve cash flow and reduce your exposure.
Danger of the single customer
If your business is dependent on very few customers, make customer diversification a top priority. It’s much better to spread your risk over ten smaller ones than being reliant on just one large customer.