When It Comes to Payment Politeness, Size Shouldn’t Matter
It’s 4th October, 6.32am. I’ve been running my own business now for 5 years, 6 months, 1 day and roughly 6 and a half hours. I have no regrets making the decision to do so and have loved every minute of it so far. Alas, as someone once said, ‘nothing worthwhile comes easy’. One of the single most frustrating and challenging aspects of owning an SME is getting paid for services especially when it comes to larger enterprises.
Does this story seem familiar to you?
It’s July. Your SME is working with a larger organisation. You’re providing a service, doing a great job, and you’ve submitted your invoice with your standard 30 day payment term.
Accounts payable bounce it back a few days later. You can’t invoice them until you get a Purchase Order from them. That’ll be with you by the end of the week.
It’s mid-July. After a few calls, you’ve got the PO reference. You resubmit the invoice. It’s now due in less than three weeks.
It’s August. You’ve had your payments from all of the other small businesses you dealt with in July. You’ve settled your invoices with the smaller companies who provide you with services. And that invoice you sent to the big organisation moves into the column marked “overdue.”
You grit your teeth, pick up the phone, hold for five minutes and speak to accounts.
“We work to a 60 day payment term.”
Great. Fantastic. Nice one. Their office works to a different schedule than your business, and for some reason we’re now all playing by Janice from accounts’ rules.
So it’s September. We’re up to 61 days since you sent the invoice. No payment. Gritted teeth. Ring ring. “The 60 days start when we send the PO reference, not when you invoice us.”
It goes on.
Politeness Costs Nothing. Delays Cost Livelihoods
It’s a regular story. Larger companies set their own payment terms, work to their own schedules, and it’s SMEs like you and me who are left carrying the bill. Not all of them – we’re happy to announce that one of our clients have never paid our invoices a day late, and they’re one of the biggest corporations in the country – but it’s a sizeable minority.
Us SMEs aren’t asking to dictate terms to big businesses who pay big money for big contracts. All we’re asking for is a bit of politeness.
If any customer uses our services – whether it’s a corporate client, a small retailer or a student – it’s common courtesy that they check our payment terms. That they let us know up front about any PO references. And that they pay on time.
Because for some businesses, that late payment starts a chain reaction that can really mess things up.
As employers we ensure that our staff are paid a wage on the specified date every week or month without fail. It’s part and parcel of the job. God forbid companies start adopting a lackadaisical approach to paying salaries as some have to paying invoices.
What Can We Do About it Then?
I’m not advocating a revolution, where we descend on corporate offices with pitchforks and demand the heads of senior bosses who always seem to get their bonuses paid on time (although if you all fancy that, we’re happy to store and deliver the pitchforks). But I think it’s time that SMEs around Manchester and the country decided to get together and demand that we’re paid on time.
If we join together, we can start putting pressure on groups like HMRC and the government to bring in policies that insist on payment in a timely manner. In fact, in Australia it’s already the law that larger businesses who subcontract have to ask the end client to pay into a project account so they can’t delay payment to the smaller organisations.
Doesn’t something like that seem fair to you?
What do we want?
Payment for our services!
When do we want it?
Before the due date on our invoices!
If you agree that something needs to be done, let’s band together. Share this post on Facebook and Twitter, and let’s start a conversation about solving this issue for good.
It’s 4th October, 7am. I’ve been running my own business now for 5 years, 6 months, 1 day and roughly 7 hours. The clock is ticking…
Who’s with me?
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