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Christmas Cash Flow Planning

christmas cash flow

Whilst many of us have a list of things to do before Christmas, ensuring there are sufficient funds in the bank is critical to having peace of mind over the holidays, and enjoying our break.

It’s a challenge most businesses face: staff and expenses still need to be paid, whether businesses are trading or not.

Unless the holiday season is when you have your peak sales, it’s the time of year when sales are lower, customers aren’t open to be able to pay outstanding invoices, and cash flow can be tight until well into February.

Planning and budgeting for your cash flow during this period is highly recommended. By understanding what your cash flow will look like now, you can be proactive in rectifying any shortfalls in advance.

Christmas Cash Flow Checklist

Here’s a checklist which may be useful to run through during your planning process:

Follow up outstanding invoices

It can take time to have invoices authorised and paid, so the sooner you start following up on unpaid invoices, the better. If you can get a commitment of payment, great. For all those customers who are usually slow to pay, send them advance reminders of when payment is due.

Ensure invoice queries are resolved & completed orders are invoiced promptly

The sooner those invoices can be authorised, the sooner they will be paid. When are you invoicing in December and do you need to revise this based on when your customers are closing for Christmas?

Don’t forget the Accounts Payable teams

When you are sending Christmas cards or presents, you may just find remembering these guys will get you to the top of the pile for payment.

Make it really easy for customers to pay

Have all payment options on the face of your invoices, and think about what an early settlement discount could do for your cash flow if you offered it for payment before Christmas.

Do your normal due diligence

Take care with new customers, or existing customers who are over their credit limit. It’s a busy time leading up to Christmas, and important to follow your normal procedures whilst getting excited about new sales. In some circumstances, would it be appropriate to ask for payment upfront, 50% upfront or shorten your payment terms?

Lastly, don’t forget your creditors.

Stay in touch, and if you are not able to pay to terms, be open about it early. You want to keep your suppliers happy and make sure your relationships are intact, so the earlier you get in touch and work with them, the better for the management of their cash flow also.

If you can pay early, you may be able to negotiate an early settlement discount.

We can help

If you need a hand chasing up unpaid accounts, send them to us as soon as you can, so we can work on them with plenty of time before Christmas.

We have our full resources available and working to support our clients leading up to the holidays. Let’s follow up those slow payers before they shut down for Christmas! Click here to go to our online portal.

Ensure your business is protected with customised terms and conditions

Here’s a question to ponder: does your business have customised terms and conditions?

If you are like many other business owners, the response is likely to be along the lines of “Umm, not sure”, or “we haven’t got around to that yet.” The truth is that updating T&Cs is one of those tasks businesses often put on the backburner – and it can be costly.

Even if they were drafted in recent years, it is important to know when you will next conduct a review to ensure any new legislation is factored in.

Sure, you may be running a successful business and be one of the lucky ones that have avoided payment disputes, but drafting or reviewing T&Cs is an important part of any business’s operations. It also provides peace of mind, so put it on your to-do list.

The case for Terms & Conditions

They can protect the thing that keeps most business owners awake at night – cash flow. Without them, businesses can end up spending a significant amount of time chasing unpaid debts and resolving disputes – or, worse still, writing off bad debts because nothing was agreed in writing.

They remove uncertainty if a dispute does occur. Yes, a handshake agreement with customers sounds nice, but in the absence of written terms and conditions you risk uncertainty and misunderstandings. Clear terms leave little wriggle room for customers who try to go back on their word.

Sound T&Cs are valuable for a business in the event of having to chase payments through a debt collection agency or when they need to engage a lawyer; they can also assist when seeking to recover costs.

Mutual benefits

It is important to note that terms and conditions protect both parties and clarify a trading relationship.

Remember, though, that terms should be customised for your business. Copying someone else’s T&Cs is risky because they may not have consulted a lawyer themselves. Each business will inevitability have different forces at play.

Help at hand

The good news is that we can help you. Our lawyers can review or prepare a customised set of terms and conditions, to improve your ability to successfully follow up on unpaid accounts.

Don’t forget – laws change, as does the way you trade with your customers. Check your T&Cs and sleep soundly!

Make the tough calls to clean up your end of financial year debtors’ ledger

Chasing overdue accounts as the end of financial year looms is a crucial business action – and one that some businesses put off or need a hand to address.

The truth is that debtor management is often one of the most difficult aspects of effective cash-flow management. So what can be done?

Issuing written reminders or SMSs to clients is an obvious step, and this move may be sufficient to prompt tardy but well-meaning businesses to pay their bills. However, making direct phone calls to habitual late payers is a far more effective way of finalising debts before the end of the financial year.

Business owners and credit departments are often reluctant, though, to make these tough calls, or they may feel they lack the experience to communicate with clients in a way that gets results. The upshot is that slow-paying  clients continue to receive extended credit, helping their cash flow and blocking yours.

With that in mind, here is a simple three-step guide to debt-collection calls.

  1. Be prepared

Make a plan and a commitment to targeting outstanding debts. Simply picking up the phone and cold calling a late payer is unlikely to work. Before calling, make sure you have all the relevant client information in front of you as this will give you confidence and prevents the client from dominating the call.

You want to avoid saying, “I’ll have to get back to you” because this delays debt recovery and provides another chance for debtors to avoid you.

  1. Know the facts

As part of your preparation for calls, gather all the necessary account details. This typically includes:

  • the amount owed
  • what they purchased
  • the payment due date
  • their terms of trade
  • where the invoices were sent
  • details of other outstanding invoices
  • their payment history.

When you are armed with this information, there is little wriggle room for debtors.

  1. Be ready for excuses

Habitual late payers often have a litany of reasons for not being able to pay. So be ready. Make a list of likely excuses and prepare appropriate responses. Here is an example of a possible call.

Customer: We have some cash-flow issues, so we won’t be able to pay this week.

You: I understand juggling cash flow can be challenging. How about you make a partial payment today, and we arrange a payment plan for the balance? How much would you be able to pay today?

What works with one client will not necessarily work with another. However, planning inevitably leads to better results.

 

Consider professional help

If this is still too daunting, an alternative is to engage debt recovery experts to make those calls for you, allowing you to get back to running your business. Such specialists have structured processes to follow and can stress to debtors that you will not let outstanding payments slide.

Remember, the squeaky wheel gets heard. Act now so you can prevent end-of-year payment blues.

 

DEBT COLLECTION CALLS | PREPARING FOR DEBT COLLECTION CALLS

debt collection calls

For most people, making debt collection calls isn’t one of your favourite tasks. If you work in a credit department or run your own business, it’s probably safe to say this job is often left until last, or is missed altogether when you are busy.

Result?

Those slow paying customers get away with continuing to receive extended credit from you, helping their cash flow but not helping yours.

Sending letters and reminders is the easy option, but because it is relatively impersonal, it’s also the least effective. The tactic works with customers who intend to pay you anyway, (they just need a prod) but is relatively ineffective with habitual late payers.

If you want to get on top of your collections, our first tip is to be prepared. Here’s how:

DEBT COLLECTION CALLS: KNOW THE FACTS

Before you pick up the phone, have all the details in front of you. Having the facts keeps you in control, ensures you are confident and prevents the customer from derailing the call.

You want to avoid saying, ‘I’ll have to get back to you on that’ which means payment isn’t about to be made, and you’re going to have to make another phone call. Particularly frustrating if they are difficult to get hold of in the first place!

Here are details you’ll probably need as a minimum:

  • amount owed
  • what they purchased
  • payment due date
  • what their terms of trade with you are
  • their account details i.e. where the invoices were sent
  • details of other outstanding invoices, even if they’re not overdue
  • their payment history i.e. do they usually pay on time?

DEBT COLLECTION CALLS: HANDLING EXCUSES

Before making your next calls, make a list of common excuses you are given, and prepare some appropriate responses. Keep this list handy for future calls, because you want to be able to come back to the customer with a well thought out reply, thereby maintaining control of the call and keeping to the purpose of the call. There’s nothing worse than hanging up and thinking ‘I wish I said this or that’.

Here are a couple of examples:

Customer: We have some cash flow issues, so we won’t be able to pay this week.

You: I understand juggling cash flow can be challenging. How about you make a partial payment today, and we can discuss a payment plan for the balance? How much would you be able to pay today?

Customer: I don’t have a copy of the invoice.

You: I’ll email a copy over now, as we are talking. Once you have the invoice, when will you be able to make the payment?

Every customer is different and there is no one way that will get you results every time. What works with one customer will not necessarily work with another. However, if you do your preparation and you plan your calls, you should start to better manage those tricky customers.

Collecting DebtDebt CollectionDebt Collection CallsDebt Recovery

Debt Recovery Tips | Managing Debts | Avoiding Bad Debts

debt collection tips

It can be tough for your business to balance customer relationships and the integrity of your brand, with chasing payment for your goods and services.

Here’s some tips from our team on avoiding and managing debt related issues.

Avoiding Bad Debts

  • Do your homework before offering credit to a new customer. An online credit check or even a Google search can raise a red flag.
  • Document agreements – have new customers sign a credit application which includes their ABN and ACN.
  • You don’t have to give someone credit – don’t compromise your own business to avoid an awkward conversation.
  • Send invoices promptly with accurate information, including purchase order details and convenient ways to make payments.
  • If your customer has an overdue invoice, follow it up quickly and consistently. Establishing a reputation as a firm but fair business can avoid future issues.

Managing Debts

  • Keep the lines of communication open. You can take a firm stance on your debt and still remain professional, human and compassionate.
  • If your customer asks for a payment extension, be specific about the terms and document it.
  • Don’t be put off by an awkward conversation. Many of us don’t like confrontation or discussing money. If it’s too hard to manage, we can help.
  • Weigh up the time being spent on chasing debts against the value of your time. Outsourcing may be the obvious answer.
  • Keep it confidential. You don’t want your business developing a reputation as indiscreet.

Ever made an incorrect payment online? | Mistaken payments

mistaken payments

A couple of months ago, I thought I’d paid the balance for our family holiday to the wrong bank account i.e. not to the travel agent.

It is easy to set up new payees online, and although we are asked to check the information before the payment is made, we all need to ensure always check thoroughly, and once we have set up our payees, that we select the right payee, because all it takes is a click .

The lesson I learnt from my mistake was that Banks don’t check the name of the account you enter when you transfer money online, they only check the BSB and account number. In my instance, I was lucky because it was only the account name I input incorrectly, so to relief the payment went through fine.

In the last few of weeks, we have had a number of enquiries from people who have paid an incorrect recipient online, and are looking to retrieve the funds. We have also had cases where employers have accidently paid a previous employee or incorrect employee and are seeking our advice.

So, what do you need to do when this happens?

Mistaken Payments: what is handy to know?

Firstly, the earlier that you notify your financial institution the greater the likelihood that the financial institution of the unintended recipient will be able to return the mistaken payment to you. Fast action in responding to the mistake and notice to the mistaken customer is key.

It’s good to be aware of the ePayments Code. This code regulates consumer electronic payment transactions, including ATM, EFTPOS, credit card transactions, online payments, internet and mobile banking, and BPAY. This is a voluntary code and virtually all banks, credit unions and building societies currently subscribe. The link to this code is: http://asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/financial-services/epayments-code/.

Hopefully knowing the above will mean you can recover funds without having to seek legal advice.

Mistaken Payments: could you end up not retrieving your funds?

We have had one customer whose funds could not be retrieved because the bank account to which the mistaken payment was made did not contain sufficient funds. The wrong customer had swiftly used the money, despite notice of the mistake!

After exploring all options with the client, our final recommendation was to commence legal proceedings against the known customer who benefited from the mistaken payment. Provided the identity of the customer is known, this is something a Lawyer can help you with.

These cases highlight the importance of verifying bank account details before processing a payment. If a mistaken payment is made, act fast.

If you want to discuss any mistaken payments made or to discuss how to safeguard against this, please contact Su-Ann Loh at Lewis Holdway Lawyers on 03 9629 9629.

Slow Paying Debtors | A Tail From The Horse’s Mouth

slow paying debtors

Slow Paying Debtors

Careers in the veterinary field attract those of us passionate about animal welfare.  You might assume that they would not have issues with slow paying debtors?

When Chris Wain Equine Veterinary Services in Queensland reviewed their cash flow, they were surprised to see how many invoices were going unpaid.

April Wain, Veterinary Nurse, said she identified two issues:

  • When they were called out, the welfare of the animal was the first priority, not thinking about the likelihood of a customer not paying them
  • Individually, unpaid invoices did not justify taking further action, typically they could be $300 to $600, however a number of invoices were not being paid, so it was impacting their cash flow

The Solution:

April needed a solution that would address the issue of non-payment, whilst being affordable so as not to cut into her margins. She also wanted to work with a team who were focused on results, but not at the expense of her reputation, brand or customer relationships.

April now has a membership with Kearley Lewis, whereby for $180 a year, she has access to unlimited debt collection services. She can utilise the services whenever she needs to, and only pays a commission when she gets paid.

Not only that, her terms and conditions have also been updated, so that the commission costs Kearley Lewis charges are paid by her customers when their payments are made.

Minimum of cost, margins maintained. Simple.

What does April say?

Kearley Lewis has proven to be an organisation that take pride in their interactions with clients and debtors alike. They have provided us with a personal service that takes into account the idiosyncrasies of the horse veterinary service industry. Being able to use their expertise to help us concentrate our efforts on providing the service that we pride ourselves on has been of immense benefit.

So far Kearley Lewis has been almost 100% successful in retrieving outstanding amounts, some as old as 12 months.

Chasing for payment? Recognise these characters?

‘Our Favourites’

We all love our customers who pay to terms, we don’t need to remind them, payment comes through before or on the due date and we all want more of these customers, these are our favourites.

‘The Busy Guys’

We’ve all learnt to manage the customers who ‘thought they’d paid’, ‘meant to pay’ or ‘forgot to pay’, these guys are busy people, and we know they’ll pay. We schedule our phone calls every month, following the same process and the arrangement works, we know the routine.

‘The Delayers’

Yes, they’re the ones, they say they didn’t receive an invoice or they want a copy of a delivery docket, but they only tell you when chased for payment. We manage these guys like the busy guys, we know the routine!

‘The Jugglers’

Then we’ve got our customers who can have cash flow issues. These guys intend to pay and they take some chasing, the timing of payment varies but generally speaking we get there in the end. But sometimes these guys are too embarrassed to let you know the issues they have. Let’s face it, juggling cash flow happens to the best of us, but sometimes these guys can go silent, and when payments get too far overdue, the situation becomes awkward, for everyone. This is when we wish someone else would deal with the matter, right?

‘The Avoiders’

Another character we wish someone else would take off our hands is the ‘I avoid paying’ or ‘I won’t pay in full’ type of character. These are the guys you reflect upon and wish you had asked for payment up front or not been so keen to accept their urgent request. It may have been the first time you supplied to them and you were keen to take on a new customer. The excitement of a new account has now turned to regret at giving them credit terms.

We’re here to help

Don’t forget, we’re here to make it easier to reopen lines of communication with cash flow juggling customers, even if sometimes it means entering into a payment arrangement on your behalf.

For customers who are refusing to pay, we can have the difficult conversations so you don’t have to. We are used to managing these types of characters and we can have success where you may not have.

Debts aren’t just bad for business, they’re stressful.

Collecting Debt from Individuals

We are often asked, as a mercantile agency, how we approach collecting debt from individuals.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have produced a guideline. This guideline helps us to understand how the Commonwealth consumer protection laws apply to debt collectors, as well as in house collection departments within businesses. The guideline is online: https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/debt-collection-guideline-for-collectors-creditors

How may contact be made with a debtor?

If an individual owes you money and will not pay, you are entitled to contact them to ask for payment. You can contact them:

  • by phone
  • in writing (includes emailing, texting and social media contact)
  • in person.

 Am I restricted to when I can make contact?

Contact with a debtor must be made at reasonable hours, taking into account their circumstances and reasonable wishes. The following can be considered appropriate times and are the local times in the debtor’s state or territory:

  • phone contact between the hours of 7:30am–9:00pm on weekdays; and
  • 9:00am–9:00pm on weekends
  • No contact recommended on National public holidays

Face to face contact should be an option of last resort. Generally, face to face contact should only be made if reasonable attempts to contact a debtor by less intrusive means such as phone calls, emails or letters have failed, and face to face contact is considered appropriate and necessary. Reasonable hours of contact for face to face contact are:

  • 9:00am–9:00pm on weekdays and weekends
  • No contact recommended on National public holiday

How often can I make contact?

Debtors are entitled to be free from excessive communication or undue harassment. As a guide, contact should be limited (unless requested or agreed otherwise) to a maximum of 3 phone calls or letters per week (or 10 per month).

Generally, visits to the debtors home (or another agreed location) is not recommended and should only take place if there is no other way to make effective contact with the debtor, or if asked (or agreed) to a visit.

If repayment arrangements can be worked out over the phone or by letter, then face-to-face contact should not be necessary.

You must not:

  • threaten
  • harass
  • physically intimidate the debtor.

Engaging Mercantile Agents

For small businesses with limited resources, engaging a mercantile agent can save you time and money. Mercantile agents can get better results when chasing overdue accounts, because they have the time and experience collecting debts that you don’t.

The challenge is finding a reputable mercantile agent to assist you.

Research

·         Ensure the mercantile agencies you research collect unpaid debts for small businesses. Choose an agent with experience collecting debt for the size and type of business you run.

·         Understand who will be working with you: will there be a collector allocated to work with you and understand the way you run your business?

·         Highly regarded mercantile agents are often connected with Lawyers who specialise in debt collection. Find out what access to legal resources the agencies have.

·         Find out how long their collectors have been working there: longevity of service is indicative of good business practices within the debt collection industry.

·         Ask for a couple of references, ideally from other businesses in your industry that have used their services.

·         Find out how many years the mercantile agents have been in business.

 

Costs & Services

·         Request information about the costs. Most mercantile agents charge a percentage of the amount they collect, just check if different rates apply, for example, some may charge a higher percentage for older accounts, which often are more difficult to collect.

·         Will the mercantile agents review your terms and conditions and offer you recommendations to improve your collection rates and reduce your costs of recovery?

·         Ask if skip-tracing services are included in the package. Most mercantile agents will offer basic skip tracing services and only charge if they have to engage external resources.

 

Engaging a mercantile agent can be great for your business, and doing the research to find the right agency is well worth the investment of your time. Click here to read more.

If you have dipped your toe in the water previously and felt it didn’t work, ask yourself if you engaged with the right mercantile agent for your business.

Outsourcing Debt Collection

outsourcing debt collection

Petra McHugh, Dandenong Family Lawyers

Kearley Lewis are Australia wide debt recovery experts, who undertake collection work for their clients when their customers are not paying their invoices.

Whilst some may be reluctant to outsource their debt collection, for fear of damaging their customer relationships, Kearley Lewis understands that business is business, and breaking relationships is ultimately a bad idea. But rather than tell you, let’s introduce you one of our customers.

Why outsourcing debt collection worked

Petra McHugh is a Family Lawyer from Dandenong Family Lawyers. She has been a family lawyer for over 15 years. The work which Petra does inevitably leads people to places where they cannot, or will not, pay their invoices.

Family Law can be such an emotional process that angry customers simply refuse to pay as they’re not happy with the outcomes. Or, socioeconomic circumstances can mean those who need Petra’s services, ultimately cannot afford them.

It has left them in a hole on a few occasions.

A few times we have been too trusting, and haven’t asked clients to put money into our trust account; when the matter is finished, the customers suddenly have amnesia,” Petra says. “Another service we provide is working for country law firms. They will send us a brief, ask us to go to Dandenong Court, and then they don’t pay. We ring them to ask, they tell us they can’t pay us as they haven’t been paid.”

This situation is surprisingly common across many industries. You can’t pay your suppliers until your customers pay you. Sound familiar?

We used the services of Kearley Lewis, we gave them 5 or 6 clients of ours who owed us money. Amazingly most of the people paid us within 1 or 2 phone calls. Julio was really good, really persistent with ringing people, something we simply don’t have the time to do.”

Why Kearley Lewis for outsourcing debt collection?

“The system Kearley Lewis has in place, where you can access their documents and do some of the work yourself, is great for us. My secretary can log in, monitor the situation, and send out official letters if we feel the need.”

Not only can you outsource your debt recovery to Kearley Lewis, they can also educate and advise on how to reduce the number of debt collection issues you have in the future.

We are trying to be more vigorous with our processes around the collection of monies,” Petra says. “Customers will go on payment plans and such. There will always be a need for someone like Kearley Lewis, and we have a backlog to give them.”

If you have delinquent debtors, long term clients who owe you money, don’t fear seeking assistance. Click here to read more about the positives of engaging assistance with collections for your business.

Call Kearley Lewis, have a conversation, and let them show you how outsourcing debt recovery is good for your business, and good for your working relationships.

Call Kearley Lewis on 03 9629 8777 or email sales@kearleylewis.com.au

Debtor Management & cash flow solutions

Cash flow is the most important part of any business. Without it you simply cannot operate. One of the biggest hurdles with debtor management is ensuring your debtors pay you in a timely manner.

Cash Flow Finance, or Invoice Finance as it is also known, can speed up the cash flow of a business if it sells to other businesses.

How it works

Invoice finance is where a business’s accounts receivable ledger, (or part thereof) can be used as collateral against obtaining finance. The debtors ledger is sent to the finance company and they can remit funds to the business. The amount of the ledger which is financed varies depending on the debtors involved. When debtors begin paying the invoices, this repays the finance company.

Benefits of the solution

Kearley Lewis works with a handful of reputable invoice finance providers. The benefits of using an invoice finance company are:

·         You speed up your cash flow and get paid more quickly by your debtors

·         You can reduce your chances of having bad debts

·         You can obtain finance without providing real estate as security

·         Your costs for finance can be factored into your pricing

·         You can obtain debtor insurance as part of your invoice finance package

·         You get access to your funds immediately, while your competition wait until their debtors pay

Contact us

If your debtors are putting pressure on your cash flow and you’d like to talk about your potential invoice finance options, call Julie Lamers on 0406 744842.