That Old Chestnut – Credit Control (or lack of it)


A subject that virtually every person in business will understand.

One of the main headaches for any businesses is the amount of time spent keeping on top of non-payers!  This problem can and does put people out of business.   What do you do if people just ignore the payment dates on the invoices you send?

It’s tempting to publish a list of the amusing tales and excuses that are used for avoiding payment.  But it’s not actually amusing.

If someone solicits goods and/or services from someone else then they must make sure they’ve the money to pay for what they want.   People shouldn’t massage their own cash-flow problems onto someone else.  Unless (that is) they’ve explained things and allowed the business they’re just about to trade with - the chance to NOT get involved in their funding issues.

Sometimes people do not want to pay for advertising in advance of printing.  Clearly these are people that have not dealt with many publishing businesses.  We try to be fair, we try to be considerate and importantly we try very hard to make sure that all advertisers do not end up paying for the antics of the few.

When space in a magazine is booked then it is effectively ‘sold’.  At that point you are entering into a contract and an obligation to the publisher. 

Here at The Quercy Local we know ‘oh so well’ that once the magazine is printed an individual advert cannot be removed for non-payment – cutting out 7000 adverts from an already printed publication is not going to happen! 

So instead, every month, we face a handful of problem payers.  Sometimes we know it’s just a case of organisational problems, other times it is a lot more irritating and distressing.  In the end the cost for all of this ends up having to be passed on – passed on to the well-run businesses.    We send reminders and sometimes people do not like that!  Our invoices are sent by email and we can see when the emails are opened.  So the ‘sorry I didn’t see an invoice’ excuse is very annoying – we do know if it’s been read.

A great tip to anyone struggling with invoices they cannot pay – contact the person you owe.  Confirm receipt of the invoice and communicate how you are dealing with things. Simple, brilliant and helpful.

We carry a note on our invoices of the penalties we may apply in the event of non-payment – but who wants to go down that route?  It’s all about fairness and honesty.

So the next couple of hours will be spent chasing up people who are well behind with payments. Payment for work we’ve already done and costs we’ve already incurred in getting adverts often designed, certainly into print, transported to our offices and then distributed around the region. Do we object to chasing these payments up?  Yes we do – it’s such a waste of what could be time better spent.

So, the long term dilemma is how to find a way of ensuring that the increased costs caused by unpaid invoices lands precisely with those that cause the problems and not with the vast majority of great businesses out there.  If anyone has any great credit control ideas – we would love to hear from you.