One of the lovely things about late summer and early autumn is a trip to a favourite farmshop, pub or tearoom for a wander round and a bite to eat.
But have you noticed how often these places have recently been unable to serve food recently because of staff shortages?
While this can be rather annoying, the wider issue of being unable to hire sufficient people to keep things ticking over in the business world is holding back our financial recovery.
The loss of immigrant labour has, of course, had a profound effect but it’s now compounded by the ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon, the post-pandemic practice of turning up for work and performing the tasks your job description demands … and nothing more.
There’s no taking the job home or staying the extra hour for these folk who have become increasingly cheesed off by what they perceive as a lack of recognition for their out-of-hours efforts. Reasonably so, perhaps.
Meanwhile, in our field of work, the knock-on effect of all this is that SMEs who are short of staff prioritise selling their services and then hope that clients will do the decent thing and pay the invoice on time without the need for repeated emails, letters and phone calls.
Credit control, in other words, comes low down the priority list and, in smaller companies and organisations, it’s a job that can supposedly be absorbed by the office or business manager.
We see this happening a lot in independent schools, for example.
Credit controller roles
Credit control, though, is a vital business function. It’s not just Robyn tut-tutting when I propose ordering another Shiraz or me wagging a finger when she’s excitedly viewing more coats for small dogs online.
Last month, for example, there were nearly 11,000 vacancies for credit controller roles on LinkedIn.
Outsourcing your credit control can help and it’s one of the services we offer to a growing number of schools, accountants, and other small businesses.
There are various options.
We can perform a ‘cleansing exercise’ – this has nothing to do with a rather intrusive service endured during an awayday at a health spa.
It actually involves us reviewing outstanding invoices and assessing which ones to prioritise and digging up old accounts that have not been paid to check if there was a dispute over the debt.
Requests for payment
Just simple things like incorrect and changed emails can mean requests for payment have vanished into the ether and stayed there, sometimes for years.
If a school, for example, has installed a shiny new IT system – and we all know how time-saving they can turn out not to be – inconsistencies may easily arise and detecting which debts have been resolved and which still outstanding becomes unclear.
We do the detective work to find out where the invoices have gone and why they haven’t been paid. We can also take up the reins temporarily if a credit controller has just left, whether it’s for a month or up to six months.
Some companies will outsource their credit control to other countries but that has limitations, not least time differences which mean emails are sent at a time when they’re unlikely to be opened immediately.
One company we helped recently had a hit a brick wall in their attempts to chase down outstanding invoices. We managed to retrieve more than £30,000 from a number of different invoices for them with very little outlay on their part.
In another case, we tracked down £160,000 for a company that was being sold and needed to close all outstanding accounts.
Now all I’ve got to do is persuade Robyn that the Ciro Citterio houndstooth doggy waistcoat that has caught her eye on an internet auction site simply has to be a knock-off …