When is a sale a sale?

SMEs would do well to remember the adage "a sale is only a sale when you get paid".

Recent research carried out by my company has revealed that despite the late payment culture in this country, SMEs largely ignore the statutory interest on late payment legislation (Late Payment of Commercial Debt(Interest)Act 1998) designed to protect them. To compound their cash flow problems, further research from Graydon has highlighted that 66% of SMEs don’t use any of the other business weapons in place to fight off bad debt and protracted trade payments. I’m talking about factoring, credit insurance, credit reports, debt collection agencies and invoice discounting.

I find these figures rather staggering. The big unanswered question in my mind is "are advisers to small concerns, like accountants and bank managers, actually giving advice on this subject which is promptly falling on deaf ears, or is the advice not being given at all?"

If any helpful suggestions are being given the cold shoulder by smaller businesses, why? Do SMEs think the available services are too expensive or unsuitable for their needs? Is there a lack of understanding about the products and services or the impact of poor cash flow on the health of their companies?

Whatever, there’s no doubt slow payments of trade invoices are not going to disappear in a hurry. Although SMEs are quite right to voice their concerns about slow trade payment practices, particularly if employed by large, cash rich organisations who love to flex their corporate muscle, the evidence seems to point to the fact that they can do an awful lot more to help themselves before blaming others. I know that sounds a bit tough, but it looks like the truth from where I’m standing.   


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