It might sound familiar. You are busy growing your business. You get a new customer (the biggest one yet). They place a large order and promise to pay you within 30 days. Six months later you are still chasing the debt and all your focus has been taken away from growing your business. It has become a struggle to stay afloat and pay your own creditors. At this stage you need to consider hiring a professional debt collection firm – but what could you have done to prevent this from happening in the first place?
The starting point is to have documented policy and procedures in place for all customers who request a credit facility from you. Ensure that your staff are aware of the policies and procedures as there is no point having them if they are not used.
An essential component of your policy and procedures is to have a credit application form.
There are many templates that you can find on the Internet – including one from the National Australia Bank. The template can be viewed at http://www.nab.com.au/business/calculators-and-tools/business-tools. The form is called ‘example customer credit application template’.
What should I include on the credit facility application form?
What you include in your application form will vary from business to business. However, the following are some general items that should be included.
1. Full Contact Details
It is important that you obtain full details of your customers. This information should include physical address, email, phone and fax. You need to obtain the ABN /ACN (Australian Business Number/Australian Company Number), as well as the date the business commenced and the type of entity the business trades under – e.g. sole trader, company, partnership.
2. Background information
Obtain as much information about the company as you can. Details of directors and shareholders and number of employees etc will be useful. A lot of this information can be cross checked using an ASIC check. If you would like to find out more about ASIC checks please click here.
3. Business and Bank References
It is always a good idea to get the names of some business references and to contact them and ask about the payment habits of your new customer – i.e. do they pay on time or do they have a habit of paying late. Make sure you let your customer know that you will be contacting the referees.
You should also obtain details of their bank and obtain a bank reference letter.
4. Other information
Details of the credit limit applied for should be documented on the credit application form, along with the date all invoices are due (e.g. 20th month). You can also state that any queries about an invoice should be made within say 7 days of the invoice being issued – so any issues can be dealt with before the invoice becomes long overdue. You also need to consider including a personal guarantee clause for the directors of the company.