Every Thursday morning, I spend 90 minutes networking with a group of local professionals in my BNI Group. We spend time learning about each other, our businesses, and what types of referrals are best. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are meeting virtually. The theme of this week’s meeting was “resilience”, which is certainly a topic on the minds of us all.
Merriam Webster defines resiliency as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. As small business owners we are constantly dealing with change, and how well we adjust to it has always determined our success. However, during the present crisis, it appears all we have is uncertainty and change. Since it is spring, and spring means baseball, consider that this crisis has thrown us all a massive curve ball, and it is up to us to foul it off.
A solid accounts receivable management process will make your business more resilient.
Your first step is to make smart credit decisions. Get to know your customers. Not every customer deserves credit from you, and not every customer to whom you extend credit should get the same terms. Do as much as you can to gather as much information as you can on a new customer, including credit references, and verify them.
Once you have decided to extend credit to a customer, document your arrangement with a customer contract. It is nice to think that you can do business on a handshake, and sometimes you can, but why take the chance? Many of the files that land on my desk as delinquent desks are undocumented “handshake” deals. An oral contract is often accepted in a Court of Law, but an oral contract leaves open the opportunity for a customer to remember your oral arrangement differently, and remember it differently they will as soon as there is a payment dispute or delinquency.
No time to prepare a formal contract? Send a simple email confirming basic details including when and how you expect to be paid, and what will happen if you are not paid on time. Remember though that a contract must be bilateral, so make sure that your customer confirms that they agree. Once they agree, you have a simple contract, which is certainly better than nothing at all.
Lastly, develop and commit to a process to monitor and track your your receivables. You (or a staff member you trust) should be intimate with what you have outstanding at 30, 60, 90 and over 90 days and have a plan of what to do at each stage of aging. Get on the phone and speak with your customers. Send a well worded collection letter. Hire a collection agency. Use the court system. In short, take action!
Accounts receivables management, if properly executed, will impact every aspect of your business. You will have more time, more sales, better cash flow. On the other hand, if you do not manage your receivables, they will end up managing you.