Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The cheques in the post....or is it?

Now this is something that bugs me greatly (and this is Beccy writing on this occasion and I have very differing views to Mike) but when is an invoice overdue?

This is the bane of my life.

We offer 14 day payment terms.  We are not a bank.  Nor a credit card company.  We are a business who rely on cashflow to keep us going.  We offer 14 days payment terms as a matter of courtesy to our clients.  So why then do some businesses continue to flout this luxury?

I've come for my weekly shop and I won't be paying!

When was the last time you popped into Tesco (other large supermarkets are available!) and did your weekly shop and said on the way out "I'll pay you in a couple of weeks (or maybe months, or maybe never if the mood takes us)".  I'll tell you when - never.  So why is it acceptable in a business to business environment?

We pay on time! Do you?
I come from an Accountancy background and so am fully aware of financial issues facing businesses of today.  Indeed I always make use of the credit terms offered to us by other companies.  If its says payment due in 14 days - I pay on the 14th day.  Never later.  Is it down to bad bookkeeping that payments become overdue? (lets blame the Accountants / Bookkeepers), or is it a deliberate ploy to keep money in your account for longer?

Mike tells me that it is not uncommon practice in the Construction Industry that people don't pay on time and need constant reminders and threats of legal action.  But why is this?  And just because that's whats done doesn't make it right.

Good old fashioned manners

Personally, I think its all down to manners and respect.  You should respect the work that the other company has done for you - they delivered a product/service as agreed with you when you accepted the quotation so show them some common courtesy and pay on time.

If another business is suffering from cashflow issues we would of course do our best to assist.  Again - it comes down to manners and courtesy.  At least informing us of the situation and advising what you are doing to rectify it.

I have taken to sending out 'reminders' to customers before an invoice becomes due so that we can do away with the 'I never received the invoice' scenario (incidentally we send our invoices with our final drawings so if you got the drawings - you got the invoice!).  Then when it becomes overdue I send a nice gentle reminder, then another, and so on.

When is the right time to take the matter further?  How overdue should an invoice be before you start adding on interest and Late Payment Compensation  (did you even know that you can do this?  - See for further information).  Should we only chase debts over a certain value?  When should you take a customer to court? 

I don't know the answer to these questions.  In fact there is probably no hard and fast rule.  I would however be interested to hear your thoughts on the situation.

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