Do You Have to Drop a Client Because of a Bad Credit Check?
A Credit Check is one of the most important first steps of good credit and debt management but you can still do business if the check comes back negative.
In a previous post on credit and debt management, I recommended that all businesses — regardless of whether they offer credit to customers on a 30-day account or not — perform a credit check on any new client who will spend more than $1000 on goods or services in one sale, on an ongoing basis.
Unfortunately, too many business owners feel uncomfortable talking about credit and debt management upfront with new clients.
They (falsely) believe it begins if, and when, a customer doesn’t pay a bill. But, in fact, credit management starts much, much earlier than that — long before the two businesses even agree to work with each other, to be precise.
The 3 Stages of Credit Management
Credit management falls, generally, into 3 broad stages, beginning with how new customers are assessed before you do business with them.
If you extend a line of credit to your customers, payable on a 30-day account, then a credit check is an imperative first step. But even if you don’t offer credit, a credit check should be a routine part of the new customer set-up process.
If you provide services to customers that aren’t paid for in advance or upon receipt, and you allow that customer between 14 and 30 days to pay your invoice, you’ve essentially just extended them a line of credit.
Indeed, it’s recommended that any business, whether they’re a sole trader, freelancer or independent contractor, carry out credit checks on any new, ongoing customer for jobs over the value of $1000.
Create credit application or work authorisation form
Establish terms of trade
Obtain a credit check
As long as the credit check doesn’t raise any issues of concern in relation to the business’ previous track record with paying suppliers on time, you can then decide to take them on as a client. From here you move to the next stage of credit management.
Stage 2: Management
This is the most involved stage of the credit management process, as it requires diligence to ensure your processes don’t slip. Some aspects of the management stage may require a phone call to your client to find out why they haven’t paid.
However, for the most part, cloud-accounting software has made it a lot easier to stay on top of your debtors. Ensure your process includes the following:
Prompt invoicing (as soon as goods / services have been provided)
Establish payment reminders, either by email or text
Send regular statements (if customer is on a 30-day credit account)
As soon as payment is overdue and in breach of terms of trade
Send to debt collection.
If you speak to your client twice about an overdue invoice / account, and they still don’t make payment within an agreed time, refer them to your debt collection agency, however harsh that may seem.
Stage 3: Enforcement
Although debt collection agencies can chase a debt that’s as much as 5 years old, the older the debt, the harder it is to collect payment.
As soon as a client is in breach of your terms of trade, and your other attempts to collect payment have failed, refer the debt to your collection agency.
If debt collection is unsuccessful, you should speak to your accountant or financial advisor about writing the debt off in your next tax return.
Good Credit Management Should Mean Few Phone Calls
So the upshot of all this is a big part of a good credit management process is properly vetting all new customers before you do business with them. If this is the case, you should rarely have to pick up the phone to chase them for payment.
In that sense, credit management is not about getting on the phone. Rather, it’s about implementing a range of procedures for managing your debtors, and it begins before you even do any work for them.
We Can Help You Set Up Your Credit Management and Much More
Is your business yet to set up proper credit management systems?
Having the assistance of a reliable, experienced professional to help you do so may cost a lot less than you think. We have thoroughly-vetted, reliable bookkeepers across Australia, capable of setting up your systems so you can continue to do your bookkeeping yourself, or able to keep managing your daily or weekly bookkeeping and accounts.
In your office or in the Cloud
This can be done remotely or in person, with most of our bookkeepers tertiary qualified and able to assist in basic bookkeeping to more complex accounting tasks. These might include accounts receivable and payable and payroll, or financial strategising.
We also have registered BAS agents in our national directory. See our newly upgraded website, National Bookkeeping for more information.
I’ve always believed that as soon as you offer credit you’ve got yourself another business – a credit management business. When we first created our MYOB Daily Transactions course we designed it to take students through the cashflow process of where money goes when it first leaves your bank account and these are the main steps:
Money in the bank (cash asset)
Buy stock (inventory asset)
Products sold on account (accounts receivable asset – Trade Debtors)
Customer pays their account (cash asset)
The interesting part of this business process to me is the marketing (choosing the products, pricing, marketing message and advertising) and the credit management to get the money back. Each of these stages and their tasks carry a certain amount of risk but the credit risk part is actually something you can manage to try to eliminate altogether, but it takes work and a system.
Well the good news is that we’ve created a Credit Management Training Guide that goes through the different parts of your business where you can put measures in place to reduce this risk significantly – even if you are in the trades or building industry.
Credit Management is a Job for Contractors
Many tasks in businesses these days is actually contracted out to independent contractors because of the flexibility and credit management is a great example because it can be performed a day a week (for smaller businesses) and it can even be performed by a remote contractor (virtual assistant) working from their own home office. See Credit Management Services at Natbooks!
Since we’ve started working with local bookkeepers at National Bookkeeping we’ve realised that credit management and daily transactions type work is by far the most common form of task performed by a bookkeeper. The rate of pay for bookkeepers performing this work is generally lower, but it’s a great option for people like working mums or dads who want to fit their work into their children’s school schedules as well as corporate accountants who want to make a start on their own bookkeeping business in their local area.
The corporate accountants or accounts managers we speak with often start performing this work in their new bookkeeping business but as their business grows they fill this position with a contractor of their own. Pre Qualify to join National Bookkeeping
Paypal and Quickbooks
Last year I wrote about the joint venture between Quickbooks (Intuit) and Paypal and how they want to help businesses get paid faster. They commissioned a study last year found that Australian small businesses are owed a collective $26 million in unpaid invoices. That’s roughly $13,200 owed to each business at any given time, for which business owners will spend an average of 12 days chasing them each year.
It’s a lot of time and effort to earn that kind of money particularly if you’ve actually already earned it by supplying your products and services!
Check out our Credit Management information page and watch out for the announcement when we include it as a student inclusion for ALL students. We created this guide to help businesses use their accounting software to better manage the credit risk in their business. We’ve included information for builders and contractors about the Security of Payments Act.
FOR ANYBODY WHO DECIDES to be self-employed and own their own business, or who is doing so already, the question of how to match the hourly rate of someone working on salary while working in your pyjamas is one that frequently goes unanswered.
But ponder no more.
If you’re well versed in the advanced features of MYOB, Xero or Quickbooks, possess an accounting qualification and can operate your business as an independent contractor, you’re well on your way to earning the big bucks as a bookkeeping consultant.
Specialist skills earn you more money
Currently, bookkeepers with a good understanding of things like time billing, job reporting and forecasting, advanced payroll, end-of-period transactions and journal entries, as well as Australian tax, are highly sought after by other businesses to work as consultants.
Of course, you could also carve out a niche specialty for yourself if you happen to be highly skilled in a particular sector or industry.
MYOB Training Online
Our MYOB courses (offered for one low price and include lifetime access) cover 85% of the MYOB skills the majority of MYOB bookkeepers require to perform most bookkeeping tasks. For everything else, however, it’s a good idea to engage the services of a specialist who can provide a solution to your specific needs.