Prevention is the best cure when it comes to potential bad debts. Every time you decide to sell to a customer on credit - and let's face it you generally don't have much choice if you want to grow your business - then you introduce an element of risk.
Risk in a business is normal. It's why you can make a profit. But is does need to be managed. This is the first in a series of weekly blogs that looks at the tools available to manage the risks of extending credit to customers. First up are credit risk reports.
Credit risk reports are a way of understanding the creditworthiness of potential customers. You can buy different types of reports that contain different levels of detail and data - the more detail the higher the cost. They do carry a major health warning in that the informatiion is historic and the fortunes of a business can change quickly. It's better than nothing though and the important thing to look out for are the trends. A good credit control review would look at:
- sales - are they growing?
- if growing, are they overextending the business leading to a squeeze on cash?
- look at cash and liquidity ratios? Is there cash in the business? Are current liabilities greater than current assdets? What are the trends
- are there any County Court Judgements? Are there reports of slow payment?
- if the business is shrinking, why is this? Ask the question of the customer?
- are they shedding staff? Why
- how big a part of your turnover will this customer represent?
The above list provides a flavour and is not exhaustive. The credit report also provides two key financial numbers - working capital and net worth. As a benchmark for a new customer keep their credit limit to within 10% of their net worth. A Google search can also reveal some interesting information....and it's free so a useful addition to the credit risk report.
A further word of caution though. If you are not comfortable with what you are looking at get someone to help. Extending credit when you do not understand the risk is not a sensible approach and will increase the chances of late or non-payment.
Next week we will look at credit policies.