Tend to the business of collecting your money

By Kimberly Stanséll

When you're running your business on a shoestring budget, you may find yourself operating in two cycles: one of elation or despair. Project deposits and progress payments can keep your business humming along. However, a few late-payers can really slow down your enterprise. You cannot be afraid, timid or lax when managing your receivables nor when asking for money that is due you. Here are four sure-fire ways to unclog your payables.

Invoice sooner rather than later
Don't wait until after a shipment is sent to mail the invoice. Say that an invoice is dated July 14 -- even though the customer may not receive the goods until the 18th or 19th -- and your terms are net 30 days. The accounting department looks at the July 14th date in scheduling payment. Even if the customer pays suppliers on a 45-day cycle, you're already at least three days closer to payment.

Monitor slow-paying accounts
Many companies have developed sophisticated procedures to stretch out their payables, thus generating loans from their suppliers. You, as a supplier, must respond by establishing a clear-cut collection policy.

State your payment terms up-front
Your payment terms should be discussed as soon as you secure a sale. If the client expresses payment terms different from yours, explain your position and work to reach a compromise. Facilitate the payment process by calling the customer 10 to 15 days before the due date of the first invoice to express appreciation for this business. Ask the customer: "Were there any problems? Since everything's okay, we'll look for your payment by the 15th."

Follow up on a timely basis
If your terms are net 30, make your first call on day 31, and arrange a definite payment schedule. It's between 31-60 days when the cash momentum breaks down. Most people in the category are merely "slow payers." By concentrating your collection efforts here, through letters and by phone, you can accelerate the payment process. You'll be better funded (and happier) when you do.

Kimberly Stanséll is a Los Angeles-based author, entrepreneur and businesswoman. She is the author of 'Bootstrapper's Success Secrets: 151 Tactics for Building Your Business on a Shoestring Budget.'

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