By Harry Mottram: One thing that keeps many a business owner awake at night is the fear their cash flow will dry up and they won’t be able to pay their staff, their suppliers and themselves. With inflation in double figures, another recent hike in interest rates and energy costs at eye-wateringly high levels it’s not easy to run a business let alone make a profit.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM – the business membership group dedicated to highlighting firms that are late payers or about to go under – said the key to success in business is a healthy cash flow. He said: “Cash is king as we used to say – and cash flow is the lifeblood of a business so it’s vital to ensure money that is owed to you is paid on time. You might be tempted to factor your debts but in my experience it can cause more problems including a break down in relations with a client due to misunderstandings, confusing and complex contracts that are difficult to end, higher fees that come off you bottom line and a refusal to accept some of your customers as they don’t fit in their criteria.”

In no particular order, here are ICSM’s top ten tips which all accounts departments must take on board if they are to survive – even if you are one person business.

10 Put late payers on stop: Stop supplying late payers. Carillion boasted on their website of paying some suppliers up to 120 days. When they went bust these were hardest hit as they lost four months of unpaid work. Enough to send a firm under – but if you cut off supplies at 30 days it will be less painful if the worst happens.

9 Cheque’s in the post. Don’t fall from a hard luck from a client about how they can’t afford to pay anyone but have a flash car parked out their office. Treat all clients the same and chase them up on the date of payment. Later than the credit term and they are on hold.

8 Go digital: Old school invoicing, accounting and sorting out expenses may have once worked but if you remain wedded to letters, paper invoices and manually writing out receipts and mileage claims an awful lot of time will be spent chasing things up.

7 Be organised: Working in a happy chaos may seem OK with its laid-back attitude to paper work but invoices get lost and it’s not unknown for those invoices to go unpaid simply because of inefficiency. A tidy desk and a tide set of accounts will help your business to run smoothly.

6 Don’t give up on old debts: If a customer fails to pay and you give up chasing them for the money as you feel it’s not worth taking them to court or you know they’ve no money don’t stop the reminders. Things change and sometimes customers who are in financial trouble trade their way back to profit and find they can pay their bills – even years later. Use ICSM’s micro debt service for overdue invoices under £500 and make use of ICSM’s FREE legal letters to chase up late payers. They work.

5 Do you know who we are: Large firms can be arrogant and expect extended credit terms as they say they are doing you a favour by doing business with you as they are a big name. Rubbish. You should treat them as any other business and restrict them to your credit terms. If they refuse to play ball then stop trading with them.

4 Get your sleep. It is tempting to put in all the hours God sends when you are self-employed with the accounts left to be sorted out in the early hours or weekends. Doing your paperwork and invoicing shouldn’t be an afterthought as spending a minimal time on them will lead to mistakes and you could either miss an invoice or not have time to chase up payment.

3 Review your costs. Keep track of all of your small business expenses. These can add up quickly but reviewing them from time to time allows you to fine-tune where your money goes. Question why you spend regular amounts on certain items – are fresh flowers in reception a necessity? Is a water cooler vital if the tap water is perfectly safe? Small costs soon add up so check them now and again.

2 Prioritise repaying loans and those Covid support loans. If payment is difficult approach the lender with a realistic amendment to the repayments.

1 Energy costs: There is no sign energy costs will come down anytime soon so look at energy saving devises. Lower your thermostat by a degree or two, maximum insulation and shut off any spare rooms or warehouses if they are unused to save on heating. For the latest on Government support in the Energy Bill Relief Scheme visit:

For more news and views on British industry or to join ICSM and prevent bad debts by getting inside credit information and early warnings of businesses in trouble visit or call +44 (0) 844 854 1850 or email

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