Figures suggest that small businesses are owed more than £36 billion as result of late payments and this is backed up by new February payment data revealed by Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance, who lend over half a billion a year through Inspired Cashflow, the one fee alternative to Invoice Finance.
John Atkinson, Head of Commercial Business, Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance, said: “Last year February was our lowest level month for collections and payment, 15% less than the monthly average, as the movement of finances sees a dramatic slowdown in terms of collections. Clients hold off paying until after the first week of March, which gives them an additional month’s credit, but can severely affect the businesses at the end of the payment chain – effectively creating a domino effect, potentially crushing the hard working SME sector.
He added: “The government sees SME entrepreneurs in the private sector as key to the recovery, but clearly many businesses underestimate the length of time it takes to receive remittances. 2013 has already been a tricky start for a lot of businesses, as we have seen many retailers fall under, combined with low seasonal sales, poor weather and a shorter month in February. This takes its toll on small businesses cash flow and we want to highlight these payment issues as a warning to SMEs and to urge prompt payment to stop the domino affect crushing the life out of the recovery.”
With Economic growth a priority, the European Commission recently launched an information campaign, to encourage speedy incorporation of the Late Payment Directive into national law in March. The new guidelines are designed to support SMEs during difficult times and put a stop on the culture of late payments.
Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance’s top five tips to reduce late-payments from your customers:
• Always credit check customers at the start of the trading relationship and review them at regular intervals, especially if they place a large order or request different payment terms.
• Agreeing your payment terms in writing is good business practice and to let customers know when you expect payment, for example, within 30 days! This way you both know where you stand.
• Chase debts. Receiving cash is not an automatic process that always follows delivery or completion of a job or project.
• Don’t give customers any grounds to dispute your invoices. Sometimes disputes do happen and can be used as a sneaky delaying tactic. Make sure your Terms and Conditions make clear the products and services description and if they fall short the customer should notify you straight away.
• Consider alternative finance options, such as invoice finance. There are lots of available options out there not just your regular bank loan or credit card resource. Depending on your business, an alternative solution may be a better option.
Head of Commercial Business John Atkinson is available for comment or interviews.
With 25 years’ experience in financial services, John Atkinson has been at Hitachi Capital for over seven years, most recently as Group Head of Marketing. Previously working for Lloyds TSB and Halifax, John is fronting the Invoice Finance team as it aims to help SME’s in these tough economic times.
We are happy to provide comment, feature contributions or case study materials in the following areas:
• Cash flow
• Invoice discounting
• General market commentary
• Recession and growth in the industry / economic climate
• Report of surveys relating to factoring and invoice discounting
• Lending to small businesses
Notes to editor:
Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance provides cash-flow solutions to over 400 SME’s across a wide range of sectors in the UK and places great emphasis on the proactive support it offers to UK SME’s. For more information please visit http://www.hitachicapital.co.uk/
Businesses who are struggling with cash flow from delayed payments can use Inspired Cashflow, a new service to help retrieve vital funds from outstanding invoices, for more information visit http://www.inspiredcashflow.co.uk/