Companies tend to get lax about receivables when the economy is booming, interest rates are relatively low, and cash flow is not a concern. But, as supply chains are affected and managing cash flow becomes more important, it’s worth taking a hard look at how your receivables are being managed. In the point below, we mention the strategy of delaying payments to your suppliers; don’t be surprised if your customers are thinking about doing the same thing to you. That’s why it’s important to improve the rigor of your collection processes. Focus on customer-specific payment performance and identify companies that may be changing their payment practices. Also, get the basics right, such as timely and accurate invoicing. Any errors in your billing process can lead to costly delays in receiving payment.
One way to preserve working capital is to take longer to pay your suppliers. Some companies may unilaterally decide to delay their payments and force the extension on their suppliers, especially when stuck with inventory they can’t deliver into impacted margins. Of course, such an approach is likely to damage your supply relationships. Even worse, it might deprive supply chain partners of the cash they need to maintain their operations, which could lead to late deliveries and quality problems, never mind the added strain to supply relationships. We recommend working with suppliers to establish an agreement that both of you can live with. There might even be situations where you need to accelerate payables for a critical supplier that is on the brink of failure in order to preserve the integrity of your supply chain and prevent a critical disruption.
Audit payables and receivables transactions
Make sure you’re paying the right amount for the goods and services you procure and collecting the right amount for goods and services you sell. Also, if you have the cash flow to support it, make sure you’re taking full advantage of all available discounts. On the receivables side, look for situations where unearned discounts were applied and then aggressively pursue the proper payment.
Consider alternate financing options
Depending on what your cash flow scenario planning reveals, you may also need to consider tactics to generate faster cash flow from your receivables. Aggressive techniques such as factoring your receivables, although relatively expensive, may be your best option to improve cash flow quickly. You may also consider working with your customers to offer dynamic discounting solutions for those that are able to pay more quickly (for example, discount terms can be defined in advance, and the customer calculates the appropriate discount based on a defined payment schedule). With this technique, you are essentially paying customers to provide you with short-term financing. But the cost may be substantial: a conventional “2% net 10” early payment discount translates into a 36% APR. However, if government loans or bank credits are not available, this might be one of your only options.