Business Development

Cash is always King, especially now!

Cash is always King, especially now!

As book-keepers we never cease to be amazed at how lax businesses can be in collecting what's due to them. In our widespread experience this is very common, if not normal. As we emerge from lockdown there has never been a more important time to be right on top of sales receipts.

If your customers are slow at paying or defaulting then follow these 8 simple steps.

1.    Clear procedures

Ensure you have clear written procedures in your credit management system that your staff can follow. Starting from the moment a customer places an order through to the payment of the invoice. This will improve efficiency and allow your accounts team to be accurate, professional and prompt. Check that your terms and conditions are clearly shown to the customer. Review your Aged Debtor list at least weekly - ensure it is up to date and accurate.

2.    Know your Customers

Before engaging with new customers perform credit checks (buy into a service). This will suggest a credit limit so use it. If you want to trade beyond that ask for a payment upfront for the excess. Follow this also for existing customers. 

Because of Covid-19 and as often happens anyway some businesses are very stretched so it’s important to monitor for any adverse changes. If a customer becomes a late payer, be prepared to take a firm stance and put them on a 'stop list'. Keep in contact with customers to become aware of any potential problems. Profile your customers to distinguish the ones to watch carefully.

3          Know what is Owed to you

Check that your debtor information is really accurate and prompt. This will include a bank reconciliation, accurate allocations of receipts to invoices and complete posting of all sales invoices. 

4          Accuracy and Speed of Invoicing

The sooner your invoice is on the customer’s system the sooner it is likely to be paid. Ensuring all information is accurate will prevent delays and excuses. 

5          Make payment easy

Offer your customers prompt and easy payment methods such as BACS or credit card. Direct Debit is brilliant, now easily available linked to Xero - this is a major breakthrough and means you collect the funds on time, under your control. Ensure the accepted payment methods and your bank details are clearly displayed on your invoice.

6          Chase promptly

At least weekly reviews will enable you to identify promptly when credit terms have been exceeded. Acting quickly will improve the chances of payment in full. A polite and professional approach, whilst remaining firm, will demonstrate that you are in control. Send statements where required as some customers won't pay otherwise. Then follow the steps of your credit control procedure. Follow up on tell tale signs if customers dispute your statements – maybe such are wrong which really upsets prompt payment.

Maintaining the relationship with your customer whilst trying to get your money in may be tricky. Tapping into the resources of an outsourced debt collection agency enables you to distance yourself from the process. Credit control should be an everyday business task, however, with so many demands on time, collecting money can be a drain on internal resource. Outsourcing your credit management can free up this time, allowing it to be better used elsewhere.

Recognise that you will be in competition with other suppliers also chasing for their payment – it’s usually the most persistent ones that are paid first.

7          Use Software

Xero links to a number of add-ons which automate the debt chasing process, saving a lot of time or more likely doing the job you’re not currently doing very well.

8          Say thank you

Customers that pay on time are worth their weight in gold. Thank those that do as this will help to build relationships and sales.

On or Offsite?

Online working or Onsite?

Our work of book-keeping with management accounts plus a payroll bureau was about 85% online before Covid-19, now of course it’s 100%. 

Gradually over the last 10 years our clients have moved towards an offsite service and nearly all new prospects want this. We’ve always delivered payroll this way – for 25 years. But now the remaining few have been forced to change. Perhaps surprisingly the transition has been pretty smooth - it helps a lot that we are very used to such a change. It clearly begs the question as to whether any of this should revert to onsite after this virus - time will tell.

Of course it’s not all positives - it does rely on the client to communicate efficiently. Most clients do but not all. There may be a bit of work assembling data to be sent to us but this is rapidly dwindling as more and more source data becomes electronic, such as purchase invoices. Documents now tend to be sent to software that routes the data automatically into Xero and the like. Such changes always improve efficiency and in some cases literally transform the business – it’s great to behold.

We abandoned going onsite to London years ago – the added costs and travel time were just ridiculous.

Canary Wharf – would you travel there for a new client?

We were all set to be appointed to a major new client with the first task being to sort out a huge reconciliation mess. We offered to do all this offsite as travelling to Canary Wharf was impractical for the staff we would have used. The prospective client declined our proposal and politely insisted that all the work had to be handled onsite and to a very demanding timetable.

The company needed an immediate start and wanted someone to work totally onsite full time for two weeks in Canary Wharf as it required working closely with their Finance Manager on a complex task. We questioned this as our 25 years experience told us that none of this work needed to be done that way. We therefore suggested that some initial work could be done onsite but other work could be completed remotely. 

Instead the company decided to use an onsite contractor to handle this phase 1 with a view to appointing us ongoing in the phase 2. Half way through phase 1 the contractor left, without notice. The work had been left in a poor state and the need was even more urgent with an extremely tight timetable for completion looming. We picked up the baton to achieve the complete reconciliations. The extremely tight deadline was achieved after the BookCheck team had unpicked and resolved the errors that had been made.

•    Our staff (from 60 staff) were split into teams, allocated to different streams of the work in order to get up to speed quickly and within the completion deadline 
•    We worked extremely long hours, including a full weekend and pulled together to complete phase 1, facing considerable time pressure to complete everything by an immovable deadline. This included a two year VAT reconciliation - transactions from Sage had to be manually ticked back to transactions migrated to Xero to ensure the first MTD VAT return was completed accurately and on time as it was. This work started on 2nd September for the VAT quarter that was due to be filed with HMRC by 7th September
•    FD and Financial Manager of the client provided schedules to show how things should be appearing in the accounts; BookCheck were tasked with making sure the accounts matched up
•    A lot of the work that the contractor had handled was unpicked and corrected.

The point is that All of this work was done offsite, without the BookCheck staff meeting anyone at the client. We acknowledge the full support from the client in assisting and communication with us – this was essential in achieving the objective.

It left us wondering why not use us in the first place? I suppose it’s a matter of trust - if you can see it you can control it? Obviously not.

So a silver lining from this virus will be a big push to much more working offsite for a whole range of jobs, after proving that in most cases it works well. Not before time in our opinion.