Maintain a Good Credit Policy
Resist efforts to issue credit lines to new customers without getting thorough credit checks.
When asking for bank references, be sure also to ask for a breakdown of each of the customer’s accounts. While large balances are reassuring, be sure that their bank loans are being repaid.
When checking the applicant’s other business references, be sensitive to the likelihood that only “friendly” references were provided, which means you should dig deeper and certainly not take all reports at face value.
Maintain an up-to-date credit file, recording payment patterns. That way you can recognize a pattern change that may signal problems ahead.
Even if payments are regular, check the credit reporting services for each customer at least annually. Again, that may provide you with a warning of an impending problem.
Make it clear to the salespeople that it’s their responsibility to keep you abreast of a customer’s trouble signs such as layoffs or production cutbacks.
Draft policies on how quickly you need to take affirmative action against a slow payer. Be aware that many customers who typically experience large cash-flow swings have developed very sophisticated ways to stretch payments by cycling their on-time payments among various suppliers.
And obvious as it may seem, failure to send out timely invoices can have a devastating impact on your cash flow.
Praise Good Work
Keep Bank Fees Under Control
Make sure its management is aware that you will ask for competitive bids on your banking business every few years. That sends two messages to your bank: You’re a prudent manager who monitors expenses, and the bank had better think twice before boosting fees or slipping in a new fee category.
Question all fees. You may find you’re paying for a service you neither use nor need.
STANLEY ZAROWIN, a former JofA senior editor, now is a contributing editor to the magazine. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .