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Managing your debtors

Depending on the type of business that you are running, it may be beneficial to you to set up lines of credit for your customers. Selling on credit can help you to attract more customers to your business, and can encourage a higher volume of sales from each customer, as they do not have to pay for their purchases upfront.

There are, however, several risks related to allowing customers to buy on credit, including encountering unreliable customers who cannot or will not settle their accounts on time or at all. It is necessary, therefore, to have systems in place to properly screen, manage and collect from your debtors, in order to avoid interruptions in your cash flow and possible financial and legal issues in the future.

Establishing a credit policy is the best way to begin when considering setting up credit accounts for your customers. This policy refers to the actions that will be taken by your business to accept applicants for lines of credit, manage their accounts properly, and follow up on outstanding account balances, including taking legal action if necessary.

— New customers

All new applicants for credit accounts with your business should be properly screened, to ascertain their reliability. It is a good idea to create a form for your customers to fill out when they apply for a line of credit, setting standards that they must meet before you will approve their application.

The form should address the following three Cs of determining suitability:

Character – This is a fairly subjective area of judgement, where you determine a customer’s reliability based on their acknowledgement of a moral obligation to pay their debt. It may be a good idea to attain some level of familiarity with your customers, especially if you are running a small business, before offering them a line of credit. This will make it easier for you to accurately judge their character, and also give you a chance to monitor their previous purchase and payment habits.

Capacity to repay – A customer’s ability to pay their accounts can be determined by an examination of their financial statements and business plan. References from the customer’s bank, previous suppliers or from credit reporting agencies can also help you to decide whether or not they have the capacity to pay their accounts. Reports from credit agencies will outline whether a business has ever taken too long to pay a debt, whether they have current overdue accounts or if they have ever defaulted on a loan.

Collateral – In case the situation does arise where the customer does not have the finances available to settle their account with you, it is important for the security of your business that they offer some form of collateral as surety on their debt. The value of the collateral should be roughly commensurate with the value of the product or service that you have provided for this customer.

— New orders

When a customer places an order, regardless of whether they are a new or established customer, it is important that you have a written record of the order and its stages of progression.

Receiving an Order – Always ask for a written order from your customers; preferably via email or an online system, or by fax or mail alternately, on the customer’s letterhead and with a purchase order number generated by their system. This is a good way to protect your business against the customer possibly denying the order when it comes time for their account to be paid.

Processing an Order – When the order has been filled, a written record should be kept with the original order stating what has been supplied and when. A packing slip, which can be included in a package if you are posting goods to the customer, is an efficient way of keeping this record. Alternately, an itemised list of the goods or services provided should be included on the customer’s invoice.

Proof of Delivery – This is particularly useful when posting, couriering or shipping goods to your customers. Certain postal services and all courier and shipping services will require a signature upon receipt of goods, which you can get a copy of for your business’s records.

— Credit period

The credit period that you state in your policy will be the length of time you allow between the date of purchase and the date that payment is due. Standard practice for small businesses is a 30 day payment period, which will help you to manage your cashflow month by month, keeping your payable and receivable accounts in balance.

Establishing a credit period with your customers should always be done in writing. When they first apply and are approved for a line of credit, you can provide them with a set of terms and conditions in line with your credit policy, which should include their credit period. Also, when invoicing their account you should always specify on the printed invoice how long the customer has to provide payment.

You might consider either offering customers a discount for settling their accounts early, or imposing a fine for late payment. If you decide to do either of these, ensure that they are clearly stated on your printed invoices, and on your terms and conditions if you provide them.

— Collection policy

In the event of overdue or unpaid accounts, having a collection policy in place will assist you in what steps to take with your customers and when to take them.

The first step to take, as soon as the account becomes overdue, is to send your customer a reminder letter letting them know when their payment was due, how much is owed, and requesting that they settle their account within a specified period. One week to 10 days is generally considered an appropriate amount of time to wait before taking further action.

The second step, should the account remain unpaid, is to contact the customer by phone, reminding them again that their payment is overdue, and outlining any possible consequences should they continue to delay payment. It is important to remain polite in such instances, to maintain customer relations and avoid making the situation worse.

The third step to take if the first two have not yielded positive results is to enlist the services of a collection agency. This will incur a fee from the agency, so it is important to judge whether or not chasing the account is worth the financial cost and the cost in time and effort, or whether you are better off taking the loss and removing the customer’s line of credit.

Finally, in extreme circumstances, it may be necessary to take legal action. Before taking this step, make sure that you consult a specialist for legal advice to ensure that you are acting according to the law.

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Innovation Stems From Collaboration – So How Can Your Business Get Involved?

Posted on October 18, 2021 by admin

Innovation is one of the pinnacles of good business practice. However, sometimes innovation isn’t a process that can be achieved by one person alone. In business, some of the best ideas and practices that your business might achieve could occur through collaboration.

Most businesses will have understood the impact and importance of internal collaboration between team members and already put into place tools to help promote this. However, what exactly does effective business collaboration look like?

Business collaboration is the leveraging of internal and external connections in order to generate ideas, find solutions and achieve common goals for your business. It can be done internally (through collaboration with your team), or externally (through the combined efforts of multiple businesses).

Many businesses are already seeing the benefits of remote collaboration within their teams, especially with regards to the time being saved and the increase in productivity.

Businesses may also find that learning opportunities are presented to their employees and team members through the interaction and collaboration with other businesses that could benefit them, with additional knowledge and skillsets gained throughout the process.

Even with many restrictions remaining in place that limit travel on both domestic and international scales, businesses are able to confer with remote workers and businesses through the assistance of digital technologies, thus enabling collaborative efforts to continue

As restrictions ease and businesses are able to engage with one another once again in face-to-face settings, remote collaboration tools can be used to facilitate inter-business collaboration from the ease of anywhere.

These include:

These tools allow businesses to work uninterrupted with individuals, clients and other businesses, as the distance between is no longer a major inhibiting factor to operations (if operations can be conducted away from the site). It can also potentially promote global interconnectedness for the business, as collaboration does not have to occur at a local or domestic level.

Your business might not collaborate with other businesses in exactly the same way as a business in the same industry. It’s important to know what might be the right form of collaboration for your business to benefit from it – and doing that will depend on what you may want to get out of it, and how long you may want it to last.

Alliance

This is known as the traditional type of business collaboration, usually involving two or three companies temporarily working together. They are able to reach a common goal by combining their resources and knowledge, which can be effective for businesses with knowledge/resource gaps that another business could temporarily fill.

Co-Opetition

Competitors can be great collaborators if used appropriately. Co-opettion involves collaborating with competitors so that businesses can share resources, avoid duplication of their work and generate new customers for all parties involved.

Portfolio

When one large business manages a broad collaboration with multiple smaller, external partners, this is known as portfolio collaboration. The main, central business sets the rules for the collaboration and maintains it, offering many of the benefits of an alliance but in a long-term form that generates more connections between businesses.

Community 

Simply put, community collaboration uses one of the greatest resources that a business may have at its disposal – the community. Essentially, businesses collaborate with individuals or other businesses that are within their community. This can be done via both the business community (e.g local business partnerships) AND the customer community (e.g. social media influencers).

Network

If a business knows of other businesses with similar goals and values that they want to uphold, they may instigate network collaboration. This style of collaboration means that the businesses may not necessarily be in competition with one another but, with shared interests can collaborate on mutually beneficial projects with access to one another’s resources and customer base.

Your business may choose to collaborate with other businesses through:

The rapidly changing and digitally-inclined business world means that businesses that don’t prioritise collaboration – both internally and externally – are likely to fall behind. Making the most of collaboration solutions and tools allows collaborations to be streamlined, which is beneficial to all involved.

If you are looking for advice on how to structure these collaborations or work out the best way to get involved with other businesses, you can plan out your way forward with our help. Start a conversation with us today.

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