Do your retail clients make you wait for your payments?

Tesco are currently classed as the worst for late payment in a list of the UK’s best-known retailers, taking an average of 105 days beyond terms to pay its suppliers, according to our latest analysis.

Our data analysis also reveals that the average time taken to pay a supplier amongst the list of 20 retailers was 45 days beyond terms. Previous research shows that the average overdue invoice to a small business was worth £6,142, small business suppliers to some UK retailers could be waiting prohibitively long to receive late payments on a considerable amount of money.

martinMartin Campbell, managing director of Ormsby Street know that, whether it’s a small greetings card designer or a food manufacturer of some sort, winning a contract to supply a national retailer can be a landmark moment for a small business, particularly in the lucrative Christmas shopping season, but just because a retailer is a household name, it’s no guarantee they are going to pay on time.

He says, ‘Because Christmas is such a major part of the shopping calendar, any orders may be much larger than at other times of the year. This means that a small business could be waiting for even more money during the festive period. If they have had to take on extra staff or resources to meet the order to a major retailer, this could be a potentially difficult and damaging time for their cash-flow.’

The best retailer in the list when it comes to paying suppliers, is high-end department store, Fortnum & Mason, which takes an average of just five days beyond terms to pay its suppliers. In second place was Lidl, which takes an average of nine days beyond terms, followed by House of Fraser and John Lewis, who pay on average after 15 and 18 days beyond terms respectively.

Campbell adds, ‘Negotiating with a major retailer on things like payment upfront can be tough – retailers are all aware that for a small business it’s a big deal to get their products in front of a national audience and so they usually hold the trump card.

‘But that’s not to say that small businesses should just accept the situation. If the retailer values the product and wants it in their store, there should always be a little leeway for negotiating better payment terms.’

The analysis showed that amongst 20 of the UK’s leading retailers, seven of those took on average more than 60 days beyond terms to pay their suppliers, a period of time that is hard to justify.

Campbell concludes, ‘For a small manufacturer or supplier, winning a national retail contract can feel a little like Christmas has come early.

‘Yet if it means they have to wait more than two months to receive payment, it is a big decision as to how any shortfall in cash-flow can be bridged, if indeed it can. The answer lies in small businesses protecting themselves against late payments by learning more about the financial health of their customers, negotiating more favourable payment terms and then chasing hard for late payments.’

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Notes: The data used in the analysis was provided by Experian, the global credit reference agency, and looks at the credit rating and payment performance looking at 20 of the UK’s leading retailers. This data is available to users of their services.

The payment performance information generated is gathered from a network of six thousand suppliers over a period of three months (up to and including 31 October). Experian provides further information on payment performance data on its FAQ pages.

Can you nudge your customers towards paying you sooner?

Who wouldn’t want to make their customers pay their bills on time?  As business owners we’re always aware of our cash flow situation.  We’ll know who owes us money and when they’re due to pay us.  We’ll also likely know who might pay us late because they ALWAYS pay us late.

Wouldn’t you like to try and make them pay on time?

HMRC have just started using one of the ‘tricks’ that’s been researched by the Government’s ‘Nudge Unit’ to persuade tax avoiders to do the right thing and pay their tax.

The trick … stick a handwritten post-it note on the letters that ask for payment.  Simple.

The Government’s ‘Nudge Unit’, or Behavioural Insights Team to give them their formal name,  use insights from behavioural research, tests and trials, with a view to ‘enabling people to make better choices for themselves.’  This could be getting people to pay their tax, using public services only when they need them, or making appropriate career choices.

The non-payment of tax is a similar scenario to the non-payment of invoices, so it might be worth the cost of a few post-it notes to see if it makes a difference to whether the serial late payers start paying on time.

What do the notes say? Nothing particularly earth shattering.  HMRC simply say “Please give me a call if you would like to discuss”, followed by the first name of an individual and a phone number.  That’s it.

They’ve also tried highlighting previous late payments (e.g. ‘Your payment was late last time, so if there are any issues please call …) or their payment performance compared to the wider group (e.g. ’90% of our customers pay their invoices on time …), both of which result in a upturn in payments.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

More reading:

https://www.cchdaily.co.uk/hmrc-sending-personal-post-it-notes-tax-avoiders

http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/blog/

 

 

Which football club’s finances need a kick-start?

Swansea and Southampton top premier league of invoice payment!

As this year’s football season reaches an end, here at CreditHQ we thought we’d take a look at how good the top football clubs are at performing where it matters – in the payments department!

Small businesses wait on average, 72 days for payment of invoices, and our analysis last year showed the average overdue invoice to a small business was worth a whopping £6,142. 

The Payment Premier League was compiled by combining figures for payment performance and credit risk.

“If a small business wins a contract with their local football team then it is easy to let the heart rule the head, and just go ahead with the work regardless – people love the idea of working for the team they support,” said Martin Campbell. “But our analysis shows that just because a team is good on the pitch, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will be as strong when it comes to paying invoices on time.”

“Winning a major contract with any sizeable local company is a big deal for a small business, but few would think to run a credit check. Yet the average time for a small business to be paid is 72 days, a period of time which could be seriously problematic for a small business, if the figures involved were big enough.”

Premier Payment league infographic

Sunderland and Crystal Palace were the worst performers on our payment premier league, so if you’re thinking of doing business with either of these teams, follow these simple tips to ensure you’re taking the right precautions to ensure you stay on top of your business cash-flow:

  • Stay on top of your invoice process to get invoices out on time.
  • Follow up before the invoices are due.
  • Chase invoices when due and always charge interest on overdue invoices (or issue a letter of intent).
  • Review payment terms for this company, including payment up front if you are really worried about the impact of late payment.
  • For major concerns about a customer’s financial health, don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal.

Check out who you’re doing business with at www.credithq.co.uk

Win our CreditHQ Christmas Gift Box!

CreditHqMerryxmas

To celebrate Christmas, we’re offering one Standard subscriber the chance to win our amazing Christmas gift box, packed with fantastic goodies to help any small business this holiday season.

What’s inside:

1 x Kindle Fire
1 x Samsung Xpress home printer
1 x red Moleskin notebook
1 x Small Business Guide including a great offer from The Formations Company, plus some CreditHQ surprises!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply sign up or upgrade to CreditHQ’s Standard subscription, and enter the code XMAS2015 – providing you with standard access completely free of charge for two months!*

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The winner will be picked at random on December 21st!

*code must be redeemed by Jan 31st 2016

3 ways to avoid being haunted by scary debt and bad credit this Halloween!

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Whether you’re a brand new small business or a more established SME, one of the main worries facing all business owners, has to be building up your credit score and avoiding getting into debt. Here’s a few tips to help you on your way…

1) Know your own credit score. It’s vitally important to be aware of how your company’s financials are reported when potential traders and customers are searching for you. If you don’t like the look of your credit score, are other people going to want to do business with you? If you’re looking for ways to improve your credit rating, take a look at our post on ‘how to get a better credit rating for your small business’

2) Be aware of your payment terms! On sites such as CreditHQ, companies’ payment terms are included as part of each business’s financial insights. Even as a basic free subscriber, people can search for your company and see a green, amber or red indicator as to how good or bad your business is at paying its customers and suppliers on time. If you need some cashflow management tips, check out our post about cash-flow projections

3) On the flip side, when you’re investigating who to trade with, the payment indicators (and more detailed reports if you become a Standard paid-for subscriber), allow you to see which company is likely to pay you on time. If they’re likely to renege on their payment terms, you can ensure you set shorter terms or limit the amount of credit you’re extending to that particular less-than-reliable company. Check out our ‘How can I tell if someone’s going to pay me on time’ blog for some more tips

It’s often bandied around at the moment, but the word ‘transparency’ is of huge significance when it comes to managing cash-flow, credit ratings and debt within any small business – so make sure you’re armed with all the tools you need and aren’t walking zombie-like into debt! Know your customers but most importantly, know your own business!

You can search over 7 million companies and register free by going to www.credithq.co.uk 

3 lessons I’ve learnt from 20 years in Small Business

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It would be easy to think – amid today’s hype about digital products and Software as a Service’s disruption of so many industries by startups – that the business world has changed a lot over the 20 years that have elapsed since I penned my first proposal in response to the tentative phone call: “We’ve heard about the world wide web and we think we need one, can you help?” With so much ink spilled over what’s changed over those two decades, I’m surprised at how often I’m reminded of how much has stayed the same. Over my time as a small business leader, there have been three lessons which I learned early, but then had to learn again and again. I set them out here to remind you too.

Lesson 1: The customer isn’t buying your product or service. In startup circles it’s very fashionable to talk about how the customer is paying to solve a problem, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. There are so many ways a customer could solve a given problem, that when they choose to do so by buying your solution, it’s crucial to understand why. It’s almost certain that your product or service wasn’t the only option, so what made them buy from you? Was it the safety and security they get from your reputation, or was it the reputation for innovation that they get from buying “the next big thing”? Are they really buying the product? Or are they trialling it for one of their departments should the rest of the organisation go a different way? Getting to the heart of why customers buy from you is absolutely essential for effective selling.

Lesson 2: You’re not selling your product or service. Depending on how you pitch and deliver your product, you might be selling the promise of repeating the experience that another customer had, or you might be selling something that you are confident you can deliver but that’s not 100 per cent rock solid yet. Or maybe you’re selling the value that you built on the foundations provided by someone else. Whichever it is, your business success depends on understanding how your view matches (or doesn’t match) your customers’, and how your business really works.

Lesson 3: Business relationships are complicated. It’s easy as a small business to work simply: we provide a service, you buy a service, the service gets delivered, the bill gets paid. If you’re selling buns in a market, you might just have a business which is that simple (though it’s not as simple as it sounds!), but if you’re selling to businesses, then it’s more likely that your customer needs your product for a number of reasons, and has various individuals with different political outlooks and different objectives. Your own team will also have various strengths, weaknesses and disagreements about how best to deliver, though various factors can change, like the economy, circumstances and requirements from your relationships. On top of this, your customer’s finance department may seem to be working to some sort of 19th Century timetable, where they have until next harvest to pay your bill! So how do you learn the lessons? Clear brands, product descriptions and contracts are hard work to create, but worth every penny because your customers can understand you better. Clear internal procedures and industry standard roles help your team to move fast and do the right thing even when the unexpected happens (come on – you know it will!).

Finally, trust that everything’s going to be OK, and then make sure that it is – monitor your customers’ credit scores and payment performances and don’t accept any excuses for late payment!

Does your budget reflect your business goals? ‘Big’ Budget Day blog…

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It’s worth remembering among all the hype and hurried analysis of the Government’s budget that the most important budget for your business hasn’t just been pulled out of that famous briefcase: it’s the one that’s setting your spending priorities day to day. A great practice for any small business is to take a full and proper look at the whole budget – not just the tweaks and headlines. To do this, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve covered each of the following five areas:

1) Know what you’re spending, and on what. It’s easy to keep a track of spending on big ticket items like salaries, and rent and bills with key suppliers, but while those transactions might be clearly visible,  it’s important to keep tabs on other spending in the business, such as travelling, entertaining, telecoms and IT. These are all costs that are easy to take on without really realising the impact on the big picture and it’s crucial that you have a clear and up-to-date picture of where things are. For most small businesses, keeping management accounts can and should be a simple operation. It might be achievable with a spreadsheet, but more often than not, one of the many bookkeeping software tools around can act as your point of reference for tracking spending and can join up your payroll, invoicing and staff expenses activity in one place.

2) It’s then essential to classify your spending – to know where the money is really going. Rather than just accepting generic categories, make sure that you pick what is right for your business. Sales and marketing might be one budget or might be separate activities needing their own budgets. Team members might originally be allocated to one area of the business but then move to work somewhere else. Ensure that you have the right labels on all your expenditure and be prepared to make judgement calls to represent things correctly. For example, your phone bill might be an admin cost, but if 80percent of charges are from outbound marketing calls, that’s how the cost should be accounted for.

3) Before looking at the results of 1 and 2, you need to look at strategy – what activities and numbers are important for your business? Are you focussed on growing your turnover as quickly as possible, or on maximising profit from your most important product or service? It’s worth thinking about this in budget terms and considering what percentage of your effort you feel you should be pushing to a particular area, whether this be marketing, sales, operations, support or admin.

4) Now comes the moment of truth, where you bring together your priorities and your strategy with where your money is going. The chances are that they won’t line up. All businesses evolve over time as markets change and products and organisations mature. Businesses that can adapt and spend their resources in a way that aligns with their strategy will outperform those that don’t every time.

5) Finally, you have to follow through on all of the findings. Your budget might show that you need to spend less in one area and more in another to ensure the health of the company, but it’s not as simple as waving your briefcase like a magic wand. You will need to engage your colleagues with changes in how the business operates – perhaps quite major ones – and it can be just as intimidating to have ones budget trebled as it can to have it slashed. Your budget might require that team members are assigned to different roles in order for the business to improve its performance, so once you’ve set out your own budget, that’s when the work really begins.