Walk into Peter’s Diner in Glens Falls and there is a sign on the register: “In God We Trust, all others pay cash.” You’ve seen it many places. It is an affirmation that you only make money when you have the cash. Peter started the business in 1961 and they still charge a very fair price for their food. They keep prices low by making sure they know what things cost, producing a good value meal for people when they eat. What does it mean in your business?
According to Business Finance Magazine the average invoice is paid in 46 days. Many of your payables are older than that. Add the amount of time that the item stayed on your shelf. When you factor in that most of your suppliers are not quite as lenient as you may be, you may soon run short of your own cash.
You are now a creditor. I define creditor as someone whose memory is better than the debtor. And remember 50% of all businesses failures are directly related to a lack of cash.
Often business owners tell me that their customers simply do not have the cash. You should wonder if they don’t pay the power company, the phone company, or their key suppliers. They can pay some of their bills, just not yours.
So how to fix this? First let’s deal with your collections. Ask yourself: When I owe money, what makes me most likely to pay – a letter, phone call or visit? Of course, it is the face-to-face experience. Do you visit your customer to speak with them about why they are not paying? Most people send letters. Sending letters is not the best method to collect your money. The fix is simple. Where possible, you or your sales rep should visit the customer. Calling is the next best option. Letters are ineffective, so do not waste the time writing them or spending the money to mail them. If they miss their first payment, you are only 19% sure of collecting everything owed!
Were they credit worthy in the first place? Implement policies that evaluate customer worthiness up front. Take “bank” out of your business’s name. Get deposits. And always follow up your delivery with a courtesy call. Make sure that they are happy with their purchase before they are supposed to pay you. Take away the “it didn’t work” excuse. This should alleviate many of your collection problems at the source.