25/01/2020

Proactive Debt Management & Reducing Overdue Debt Hangover

overdue-bill

As a small business owner, there’s nothing worse than having overdue accounts – funds you could be using to enhance sales, replenish inventory or simply make necessary payments to your own suppliers.

Overdue debt is that fragile relationship between wanting to get paid and not wanting to upset the customer that may put a strain on future work. Having the right process and understanding is key to ensuring that overdue debt does not get out of hand.

While there are always going to be those select invoices that take a bit longer than usual to complete, it should be the goal of any small business to reduce overdue accounts. Overdue debt cannot be avoided sometimes however there are ways of achieving success without being overbearing or rude, in fact, there are quite a few proactive solutions that will help reduce the chance of debt becoming overdue.

Understand your Prospects

Guess what!! There is such a thing as a bad customer. When quoting a prospective client do your due diligence on who they are and the reputation they have in the marketplace. This will give you a first glance of any potential issues you may have in the future, if red flags pop up don’t be surprised if you take on the risk and the debt become overdue.

If red flags do appear, we suggest to;

  1. Walk away – sometimes the risk is to high for the reward
  2. If you proceed, ensure you price your services accordingly and take into consideration the potential cashflow impact the overdue debt will have on your business
  3. Ask for deposits – there is nothing wrong in asking for a deposit until you have created a positive payment repour with your client

Letter Of Engagement

Having a clear understanding between you and your client is nothing new, create a Letter of Engagement for your business which outlines clearly what each parties’ expectations is. This is critical if you operate a business which is based on retention of continuous work.

This will become quite useful if you ever run into a client who won’t or is slow in paying their bills. Furthermore, this becomes a golden document in the unfortunate event of having to escalate and go to court. Where you sell products or one-off engagements, Letter of Engagements are still considered useful but ensure that payment terms and method of payment are clear on the invoice.

The Letter of Engagement should contain key information such as;

  • The services you will provide
  • Any commencement and end dates to the agreement
  • How much will be charged, frequency and payment terms (i.e. 14 days from invoice)
  • How each party can terminate the agreement
  • What the steps would be if invoices remain unpaid past their due date

Policies

Another way to reduce overdue accounts is to understand what risks you are happy to take and more importantly ensure everyone in your business is on the same page. This can be done by writing a clear and concise credit policy that highlights your terms and conditions. The policy should contain information such as general payment terms offered, process of escalation and reminders and timeline of steps taken before it’s turned over to a collection agency.

Don’t forget to review these policies periodically to ensure they remain current and cover trends in the economy and payments from clients.

Automate

Most accounting software now come with functionality which allows you to setup reminder letters and monthly statements. This allows your clients to keep track of what is due and give them a friendly reminder when something may have been missed.

We operate in a world where many businesses get hundred of emails and notifications each day, and sometimes even with best intentions your invoice may go missing or fall part of the dreaded spam. Sending a friendly reminder allows the client to be aware that payment of an invoice was missed. What is even better, is that clients can also be excluded from the process in most cases so you can manage who gets what and when.

If your business is unique there are always third-party providers which integrate to you accounting software which allows you not only to manage your debt but also integrate with payment platforms.

Contact us if you need assistance in setting this up in your business.

Review

As a business owner, you also need to stay on top of outstanding debts to reduce overdue accounts. Nothing is still better than this, run your reports or setup your accounting software with the right information on the dashboard.

Do not be afraid to pick up the phone and have that friendly discussion with your client as to why an invoice may be outstanding. This will allow you to quickly identify what steps you need to take to get the invoice paid.

While it’s frustrating to deal with slow-paying clients, reduce overdue accounts by implementing your own unique solutions and create clear guidelines as to what you expect from those working with you!

Contact us for a complimentary bookkeeping consultation and be sure to visit us on Facebook!