You all know that we at Corp & Comm love a cliché. There’s always an element of truth to a cliché and they’re usually good life lessons.
In these troubled times, there is one life lesson that will stand your credit control and debt recovery in good stead…. Little and often.
Let’s be honest, the lock-down is not going to end any time soon so as businesses, we need to make plans for at least the next two months. Key to these plans are two cash goals :
1, Get what money you can in quickly.
2, Get what invoices you can raised now.
Here’s our tips to achieving both :
Goal 1, Get paid what you can, as quick as you can.
Look at what’s currently outstanding on your ledger and put some time aside to follow this up.
Don’t feel bullish because you’re asking for money, you’re entitled to it and we’re damn sure you’re not the only one who needs it. Take solace in the fact that everybody is in the same boat, trying to stretch their finances to all to make ends meet. Where you need to, offer payment arrangements with your customers. Not only will this gesture help create some much needed cash-flow for you, it will also help strengthen your customer relationship which can only pay dividends in the future. Your customers will appreciate the gesture and to be honest, most companies will find it easier to pay three lots of £1,000 over three weeks, rather than £3,000 right now.
As we said… Little and often.
Goal 2, Raise what revenue you can, as quick as you can.
Look at what invoices you can raise both now and in the near future.
Review your current work-load. Are you already part way through a job or project that you could raise an immediate invoice for, such as first fix for a contractor, content for a web developer etc. Raise an interim invoice for ‘work done’ and send it sent to the customer. You create the opportunity for much needed revenue and the customer will appreciate smaller, incremental bills…. Little and often.
Finally, when we do all get back to some normality, the pressures on businesses will be even greater because they’ll be no more Government backing. When you’re back to full speed use the same brief. Instead of completing lots of work and then raising a larger bill later, split your new work up into segments and bill lesser amounts quicker to speed up payments and most importantly cash-flow…. Little and often.
The Covid crisis will have a serious effect on how we conduct future business and will force many businesses to look at how they do things and how they can change for the better. These tips above are just some ways of maintaining ‘cash flow continuity’ and are a great start in managing a steady ship, rather than the boom and bust mentality of previous years.
The UK’s political and economic climate continues to be one of the toughest in recent history. With the UK’s economic growth running at the lowest in 9 years.
As we know several big brands have been forced to close, with a steady stream of others following month after month. The ‘ripple effect of debt’ on smaller businesses is significant and felt across industries.
November is a month of reflection and looking back so it felt right to give thought to 16k+ companies who went into insolvency during 2019. What can we learn to limit further losses ?
Recent research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance (HCBF) shows that late payments are affecting small business of all sizes across all industries:-
– 75% of small businesses (10-49 employees) are dealing with late payment issues.
– Whereas 50% of sole traders are force to deal with debtor issues.
It is a fact that late payments are notoriously hindering the ability of businesses to progress – not to mention the precious time wasted chasing overdue payments.
Imagine This Scenario.
You won the order, provided a great service or product and sent your invoice as agreed but when it’s time for them to pay you, they appear to have fallen off the face of the earth. Your calls are never returned, your emails ignored. You have concerns and maybe even heard a whisper that the business is ‘struggling’ . You fear the worst for your business, but what can you do?
Have you already spent too much time on this one client and have other priorities to focus on. After all, investing your time in an invoice already raised is not going to increase the value of the invoice. Maybe now is the time to hand the debt over to a recovery agency like us to collect?
If you’re determined to press on yourself, then we’re still there to advise and guide you as to the best way forward. Why not benefit from our resource and techniques to aid in your recovery and diligence. You will soon be able to tell whether you’re going to be paid, or whether your debt may be lost.
Brexit continues to keep the continued poor state of the economy out of the headlines. However, the spectacular collapse of British Steel has brought economics back into stark focus with a bang.
Anybody who has a measure as to financial indicators knows that the liquidation of British Steel was always on the cards. Plus it was always going to be sooner rather than later.
Simple diligence investigations
Look into the parent company, Greybull’s other purchases shows numerous high profile business failures in recent years. Most notably electrical giant Comet and then Monarch Airlines. All of which ultimately cost the taxpayer a whopping £60m.
British Steels share price fell a staggering 80% over the last 14 months. An clear indication that experienced traders were pulling their money out, rather than investing in.
A review of British Steel’s accounts show a cash injection of £154m in the last financial year. Followed by a Government loan to the tune of £120m. All this demonstrates a serious miscalculation in both future trading and the accounting process.
Every business owner whether at the head of large or small company, know it’s still very tough economically. So let’s be frank, it’s never been easy and it never will be. It’s how we educate, identify and manage the financial pressures that counts.
Business hunches are usually correct. If you have doubts about a customer or a supplier, then there are quick and easy ways to determine whether you may have increased exposure or risk.
Take the above examples about British Steel as a guide ;
Simple checks through Companies House and credit reference agencies will tell you who in fact is behind a company and that they may not be all that they seem.
Larger businesses with a share issue allows you to review periodic results and ratings, which can provide an indication as to whether a company is on the up or on the slide.
Most limited companies are forced to file financial accounts that are available to the public. By reviewing these, you can determine how well, or how poorly, a company is being run.
British Steel isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last industry giant to fold. What’s important is what we learn from the failure. What indicators we use for the future and how we ensure that we’re not one of those caught up in the ripples of debt that ultimately flow down the supply chain.
How can we help?
To learn more about the benefits and costs involved in outsourcing your credit controlto Corporate and Commercial please get in touch. We’re a friendly and professional team who want to help your business succeed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or Call 01535 654 594
When Prince William, the future King, champions a cause, people usually sit up and take notice.
One topic the Prince is bringing to the fore is mental health. So with this being Mental Health Week, we at Corp & Comm felt it prudent to highlight the steps you can take to reduce a business’ financial concerns and worries.
There is a widely accepted link between financial wellbeing and mental wellbeing. Although it is the consumer element of debt that makes the news, there is a very real necessity and importance to address the requirement to have commercial financial wellbeing on an even keel.
Research from Nesta, the innovation charity shows that 40% of British entrepreneurs have admitted that managing their finances and banking has become the most stressful part of running their business. Being forced to give up evenings and weekends balancing the books, is unnecessarily burdensome. The stress is taking its toll with 17% saying it has made them unwell.
Financial gain may not be everybody’s motivator but it is certainly an enabler. Every business owner knows that when their business is doing well, they can afford to pay the correct wages, order stock, invest in technology etc which in turns boosts everybody’s wellbeing.
The simplest way of summarising how to achieve commercial financial wellbeing is this : Ensure that your incomings either match or are above, your outgoings.
Ten Commandments of Credit Control
We at Corp & Comm champion ‘The Ten Commandments of Credit Control’. Through our training days and university presentations, we encourage everybody to factor at least one or two of the Commandments into their day to day credit control process, to ease the burden.
Good credit control is measured by having a successful, robust process in place that can be applied to each and every matter, irrespective of size, age or customer. The ability to keep systems uniform, exact and regular removes the stress and anxiety of reaction and then action.
Having a plan in place and sticking to it, allows each and every business owner to be confident in their ability to recover their monies and in doing so, move on to other more pressing matters whilst all the while maximising the payments into their bank.
As we’ve said, finance may not be every person’s motivation but finance is both the key and the lifeblood to every business. Without cash, every business will fail. Simply apply just some of these simple steps and take action to ensure that your business’ finances don’t become an issue.
One in seven, (14%) of small and medium-sized companies fell victim to invoice fraud during the past year, according to Barclays research.
These fake requests for payment or to update a client’s bank details are emailed by fraudsters, who disguise themselves as regular suppliers. They can also be costly, with 28% of reported scams resulting in losses of more than £5,000.
How does it happen?
Invoice fraudsters are often aware of the relationships between companies and their suppliers, and will know the details of when regular payments are due. The fraud may only be discovered when the legitimate supplier follows up on non-payments.
Fraudulent letters and emails sent to companies are often well-written, meaning the fraud is difficult to spot without strong operating processes and controls in place. Email addresses are also easy to spoof, or in the case of malware-infected PCs, criminals can access genuine email addresses.
The process of changing the bank details of someone you are paying should always be treated with extreme caution.
Here at Corp & Comm we are obviously aware, trained and vigilant against these threats, as part of servicing our end to end credit control anddebt recovery clients. However if you don’t currently outsource your credit control to experts, it’s worth considering how to prepare your teams against the risk:
How you can help to prevent invoice fraud – a checklist
Always verify details of any new/amended payment instructions verbally by using details held on file, and not on the instruction. Fraudsters can spoof email addresses to make them appear to be from a genuine contact, including someone from your own organisation.
If you are suspicious about a request made by phone, ask the caller if you can call them back on a trusted number.
Fraudsters will attempt to pressure you into making mistakes – take the pressure off by taking control of the situation.
Consider removing information such as testimonials from your own or your suppliers’ websites or social media channels that could lead fraudsters to knowing who your suppliers are.
Look carefully at every invoice and compare it to previous invoices received that you know to be genuine – particularly the bank account details, wording used and the company logo.
Consider setting up single points of contact with the companies you pay regularly
Apply the same principles to requests from within your own organisation
Electronic payments in the UK are made based on sort code and account number only, and any account name given is not routinely checked, therefore independent verification is important.
Regularly conduct audits on your accounts
Make all staff aware of this type of fraud, particularly those that are responsible for making payments.
Outsource Credit Control– Employing experts to deal with your invoices, payment details and cashflow has several advantages. It frees up your time to focus on other priorities, it adds a specific skillset to your team, limits risk and improves cash in the bank. If you would like to discuss how we can help please just get in touch.
Cyber Insurance – An added layer of protection can also come in the form of insurance. As with other areas of our business we have to consider the exposure and risk. So it is also worth considering your requirements for Cyber Insurance. We spoke to Jamie Illingworth, MD of Illingworth McNair to understand this area further:-
“It is vital that SME businesses look to protect themselves from the threat of cyber attack. These threats are becoming more prevalent and advanced in nature. The cost of cover used a barrier to SME’s but now products are available to protect businesses at affordable rates”
Patisserie Valerie is another case of corporate insolvencies continuing at a pace but do we all really know what they mean to us and our businesses.
When dealing with companies there are two main types of insolvency – Administration and Liquidation.
The simplest way to explain the difference is that:
Liquidation is not good,
Administration is better but still not great.
Lets look at an example
Patisserie Valerie- They entered Administration.
This means that a third party will take over the running of the company, usually an Insolvency Practitioner (IP) or an Accountant with a view to finding a buyer for the company as a whole, or continuing to run it as a going concern..
Deals are often made with the creditors of the business. They’ll offer people who are owed money say 40p in every £ owed, to reduce the liabilities of the business and to make it a more attractive proposition to buyers.
For the established high street names Administration is the preferred option, so that the company can continue to run. The brand name continues and there is a possibility that some, if not most of the staff can keep their jobs.
One such example of a ‘successful’ administration is HMV.
This is a high street name needing support to find a buyer and retain goodwill rather than close.
Administration was the preferred option.
Thankfully a buyer was found for HMV and the majority of the stores will remain open, safeguarding several thousand jobs.
What if there wasn’t a buyer?
If a buyer could not be found, or the company is found not to be a viable option for continued trade, as in the case of Carillion, then the company may enter Liquidation.
This is where a Liquidator or IP will affect a ‘fire sale’ of the company’s best assets such as:
Monies raised are to pay its creditors. However, because the company has closed and the brand no longer trades, there is no future revenue and the staff will unfortunately lose their jobs.
Should you suffer the pain of having a company enter insolvency, then your best hope for a positive outcome is if it goes into administration. In which case you should always lodge your claim with the IP, as there is a chance that you could get paid a creditor’s dividend, or some pence in the pound against what you’re owed.
If the outcome is liquidation, again lodge your claim with the IP but be aware that any dividend will only come about from the sale of assests and this is solely in the hands of the IP. So no guarantees, no timescales and less chance of a positive outcome.
Remember, there are ways and means of limiting your exposure to the risk and pain of bad debts and insolvencies. If you would like to discuss these options, please feel free to contact us as well as reading more of our blogs
It’s been a year full of economic and political challenges for all businesses. Including several, high profile insolvencies. The effects of which have been felt far and wide across the small business community.
Therefore, I’m sure we all had an eye on the budget last week! That said, I’m not sure we all felt too assured by Chancellor Philip Hammond’s statement that “The era of austerity is finally coming to an end”
One of the changes that did catch my attention was the reversal of a 2002 change to the insolvency regime where HMRC was demoted from its position as preferential creditor. It was instead ranked alongside other unsecured creditors.
Currently, several creditors other than HMRC have a higher priority claim on the assets of an insolvent company but from April 2020 however, HMRC will have greater priority to recover taxes paid by employees and customers. According to the government, this will ensure that an extra £185m in taxes already paid each year reaches the tax authority.
However, there are valid concerns around this. Namely that the HMRC could choose to become more aggressive with enforcement, given their renewed status, which in turn would lead to an increase in company insolvencies.
Given that we currently have an increasing trend in corporate insolvencies that saw a rise of 9% in Q3 compared to Q2 2018, and 19% compared to Q3 2017, this may add to the problem.
Only time will tell.
It does highlight once again the need for businesses, large and small to create robust financial administration systems. A successful credit control process that limits your exposure to risk and keeps your all important cash flow healthy, can be the difference between growth and insolvency.
If you would like to discuss your credit control process or have issues with late payments, we’d be happy to discuss your situation and guide you towards a solution.
Regular readers to our newsletters, blogs and social media will know that we’re championing insolvency regulation and law changes.
The goal is to prevent reckless company directors from evading all liabilities, with such ease when their companies enter insolvency.
The process of closing a business and then ‘phoenixing’ a new company from the flames, free of debt needs to stop. It is the scourge of all small businesses.
We’re campaigning with the Government’s Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppalfor changes in both law and legislation. Reckless directors must remain responsible and be held accountable for their actions.
We reported last month discussions we’d had with the Commissioner’s office about what changes needed to be implemented. This directly led to meetings both with the business regulatory bodies i.e. Companies House and in the annals of power in Parliament.
Notably the Government said it wants to stop the practice known as ‘phoenixing’. Plus it stated that for the first time, directors dissolving companies to dodge debts will face misconduct investigations.
Change is starting to be noticed. Indeed Stuart Firth, President of the Insolvency and Trade Body R3 stated… “The Government’s announcement that it will look to disqualify directors of such companies, is an important part of ensuring that directors are less likely to walk away from their responsibilities”.
Now we’re not stating that we’re directly responsible for these steps but we’ll happily take some credit where necessary.
We’ll continue to converse with the Commissioner’s office and the next stop is conversations with The Insolvency Service, to discuss how we can put these plans and ideals into general practice.
Large company failures…. They make the news on an almost weekly basis.
Big high street brands such as Toys R Us and House of Fraser have suffered high profile insolvencies this year and others like Debenhams and Marks & Spencer have been forced into an aggressive program of store closures.
In fact The Centre for Retail Research confirms that 41 high street names have entered insolvency so far in 2018… and it won’t end there.
Now we realise that not everybody deals directly with these big high street brands but the likelihood is the chain of supply will work it’s way to your clients and suppliers in some way and will they be forced to pass on their pain to some degree ?
The question is, what can you do to avoid being a victim in these trying times.
The answer is simple, keep doing your diligence.
Regular readers will know that we often speak about employing good checking processes and systems into your credit control procedures. In these trying times, let’s quickly revisit them.
1.Conduct REGULAR credit checks on your client and suppliers.
Check for any adverse profit warnings, reduced credit scores and credit limits. All of these are indicators that the reference agencies and regulators are concerned.
2. Reference Companies House and other business databases.
Check your existing and new information with the databases. Have new businesses been set up by the same directors ? Does this point to an imminent change in the business ?
3. Do your diligence on the internet.
The internet is a great source of news and notices. If there are rumblings of troubles and insolvencies on the horizon, it’s better to be forewarned so you can act first, not last.
Now we’re not saying that by you conducting the correct diligence, the rate of company insolvencies will fall, far from it.
What we are saying is that in these days of companies closing, entering insolvency and then ‘pheonix-ing’ from the flames overnight into another business, you are better forewarned.
For 2018 has definitely shown us that your leopard can indeed change it’s spots.
If you would like to learn more about the diligence, credit control processes and methods to improve overall cash flow in your business check out our other News Blogsor attend our Seminar, that is taking place as part of Leeds Biz Week.