Small businesses are being urged to start preparing for the annual Christmas slowdown now, with one of Australia’s largest debt recovery agencies warning it is the most dangerous time of year for cashflow.
Many SMEs don’t plan ahead for the quiet period over Christmas where customers wind-up their spending, putting a strain on cashflow.
A recent MYOB survey revealed 77 per cent of businesses are impacted when a customer fails to pay, this is compounded during the Christmas slow down when SME’s are often struggling.
Christmas is always a difficult time for SMEs as most clients close until late-January and we constantly deal with the repercussions of those businesses that haven’t planned ahead and put processes in place to see them through this period.
For most SMEs who fail to prepare, they won’t feel the impact of the Christmas slowdown until after the New Year when the cashflow drop-off hits them. The period of February to March is the most common time for businesses to collapse – I call this graveyard month for SMEs. Once businesses start feeling the pinch at this time, it’s often too late to do anything and they’re left chasing their tails.
MYOB also found 52 per cent of surveyed SMEs believed a lack of regard for invoicing terms and payment processes was the main reason for late or slow payments.*
Businesses must respond to inefficient payment procedures and implement processes to secure their cashflow going forward, while taking advantage of the current steady economic conditions to minimise debt.
Australia’s last recession was more than 25 years ago so we are well overdue. SMEs must review their cashflow now or put themselves at risk of collapse when a downturn eventually hits.
Banks have, for the most part, moved out of the small business-lending space so SMEs won’t be able to rely on any financial support. Instead, they should be looking to improve the efficiencies within their collection processes and work to bolster their cashflow.
Here’s a checklist for businesses to protect themselves ahead of Christmas:
Assess your cashflow and make arrangements now if you need support from your bank
Get bills out as soon as possible to ensure businesses make payment before they close down
Focus on completing current orders and billing them rather than getting new orders
When ordering equipment and supplies, specify you won’t be paying until mid-February
Get on the phone and speak to customers whose accounts are overdue and get promises to pay
Offer discounts on accounts which are paid a few days before Christmas
Defer any purchases which can be held off until after Christmas
Go through old and written-off accounts and refer them to a collection agency as soon as possible