Could you continue unscathed, if your customers stopped paying you for two to three months and instead paid within 60 and 100 days? On April 16, 2013 an article was published in the Wall Street Journal, “P&G, Big Companies Pinch Suppliers on Payments.” The WSJ article discussed a trend among large companies to push payments out.
If you do not have any large clients, you may not be immune to this trend. If you provide materials to suppliers of large clients, these clients will attempt to delay payments to you, i.e. attempting to push the payment issue down-stream.
The immediate impact to your business will be the evaporation of your free cash flow. Your ability to develop new products, make acquisitions, pay dividends, reduce debt, and hire will be greatly reduced.
So what can you do?
I recommend you anticipate the issue. The following tactics are simply “best practices.” If you are not affected by this trend, none of these tips will harm you.
– Increase required down payments/retainers. A non-paying customer may be worse than no customer at all, if you incur costs to obtain the business or advance funds to complete the business.
– Tie sales compensation in some form to payments received, i.e. commissions tiering and/or quarterly bonuses. This tactic will ensure your Sales force is providing quality customers that pay on-time and they stay engaged in the collection process.
– Document and distribute payment terms that provide discounts for early payments; but late fees if payments exceed established timing.
– Stay engaged. If you are owed, ask for payments.
Doing nothing is ill-advised, as the message relayed to your customers will be, “its ok to pay me late.”
However, if you implement the above recommendations without success, you may need to consider the following two options to address an expected cash crunch –
– Establish a short-term borrowing facility – Short-term financing based on your credit worthiness through a bank. This option will have a cost which you may not be able to pass to your customer, i.e. negatively impacting your margins; or,
– Consider factoring – Receive an advance against accounts receivables from an asset based lender called a factor. This option may be required if you don’t quite qualify for a traditional loan. This option will have a cost which you may not be able to pass to your customer, i.e. negatively impacting your margins.
It will be interesting to see how the credit agencies handle these situations, as a lack of timely payments should impact the credit quality of the delinquent payers, i.e. D&B, S&P, Moody’s…
It will also be interesting to see investors’ perceptions of this change. There are several financial ratios calculated by investors and analysts that use Current Liabilities as the denominator. It makes sense that if payments are put-off, Current Liabilities will increase which will impact – Working Capital (Total Current Assets – Total Current Liabilities); Current Ratio (Total Current Assets / Total Current Liabilities); and Quick Ratio (Cash + Accounts Receivable) / Total Current Liabilities).
What are you seeing?© Copyright 2013 Regis Quirin, All rights Reserved. Written For: CFO Tips - What you need to know, to be a CFO TODAY!