One of the keys to business success is keeping cashflow under tight control with the use of effective credit control. There are practical steps that a business can take to avoid bad debt and reduce the risk of invoices being paid late or worse still, not at all. The following credit control and debt recovery tips can assist in keeping the money rolling in…
- Ensure your invoices are timely and accurate
Invoice quickly and efficiently. The sooner you invoice, the sooner you get paid. Your invoices should contain the correct company name, reference number, date and a clear breakdown of which goods/services the invoice relates to. It should also include details of how to pay and refer to your terms and conditions. You should always make sure the invoice details are accurate before you consider taking further action if a debtor refuses to pay.
- Check and provide your terms & conditions
Good up-to-date terms and conditions are vital to offer you protection from unpaid invoices and they should be kept under regular review. They also limit any liability you may face following the business transaction and provide you with security.
The customer/client should be provided with the terms & conditions most importantly at the start of any agreement. It is important to also obtain their signature where possible. Your terms should include the consequences of late payment and the penalties associated with a breach of the terms and conditions (such as interest). These consequences and penalties can be used to apply pressure and obtain payment from the debtor.
Terms and conditions are the basis on which you do business with your customers/clients so it is very important to get them right and stick to them. It is important to also ensure they are referred to in an order confirmation or other contract document.
- Effective credit control
Practising good credit management can stop things from getting to the point of having to take legal action or put pressure on your customers/clients. You should put in place a system to ensure you know when invoices are due and when payment becomes overdue. Credit control steps should be taken in an organised way. It is easier to manage if you have a procedure set to timescales and will ensure the invoice is continually chased. Telephone contact is important and a very effective form of credit control. Ensure you are speaking with the correct person and that they are able to authorise the payment of your invoice.
Further preventative measures include:
- Credit checking all new customers;
- Imposing stricter terms and conditions on customers who have delayed payment in the past;
- Setting credit limits according to the level of risk and stick to it;
- Providing a financial incentive to paying ahead of time; and
- Discussing terms and conditions at the earliest opportunity and making sure your customer/client signs them before purchase (as outlined above).
You can also use a stop list for customers/clients you do not want to give more credit to. Update your stop list regularly and do not supply any more goods/services to customers/clients on the list until they have paid their accounts up to date. Inform late payers that they are ‘on stop’, encouraging them to pay up.
- Keep accurate records of correspondence
Obtain copies of all the relevant paperwork (invoices, written contracts etc) available. This documentation will be required to evidence your claim. All correspondence, whether letter, phone or e-mail should be recorded and make sure you keep copies of all correspondence passing between you and the debtor. This will allow you to make decisions on how to proceed with the matter and may also assist with eradicating any excuses or queries your customer raises. Also this correspondence can be passed to your solicitor who will need this information to successfully recover your debt. Clear information will help when drafting court documents and particulars of claim and will also help with negotiations.
We can help you recover debts you may have and we will tailor our service and our fees to your own specific needs. If you would like advice on any matter which is keeping you up at night, including debt recovery which in turn may save your business, Griffin Law provides prompt, commercially astute and cost-effective advice to their clients. Contact us at [email protected] or on 01732 525923.
Article by Rico Dexiades, Solicitor, Griffin Law