Paying your bills on time

As someone who runs a small business, I completely understand the problems of cash flow.  You provide goods or a service to another company and then give them “30 days” or whatever to pay the invoice.   If you’re lucky, your customers are like me: A bill arrives, it gets paid. Right there, right then.

Apparently this is quite rare.

I once wrote something similar to the above on That Mailing List.  One of my suppliers delicately emailed me mentioning that, in fact, I had not immediately paid a bill they had sent and could I please do so.  Acting in good faith I wired the cash less than 20 minutes later with an apology.  Later it turned out to be an accounting mistake on their part, we had already paid the bill within a day of getting it, as I had thought.  It then took them nearly two months to refund the overpayment.

It’s obvious why you might allow an invoice payment to be deferred for up to X days.  And it’s obvious why, once that period has passed, you write very polite letters asking for payment that overlooked invoice, at their convenience, if they don’t mind.  You’ve already provided goods or a service and you haven’t been paid yet and you don’t want to piss off the people who owe you lest they delay or make your bills not make this month’s payment run.

Can we small businesses please get into the habit of paying bills on receipt, or at least on time?

I write this, of course, with a pile of literally thousands of pounds of unpaid invoices (ours, to other people) on one side, and another pile on the other side (other people’s, to us) with a PAID stamp on.