Recently an alliance of small business lobbying groups sent a letter to the Business Minister Mark Prisk, highlighting one of the biggest problems facing companies tendering for contracts in the UK today: late payment.
The numbers present a clear picture of the both the scale of the problem and who the mostly likely perpetrators are.
- Large companies are responsible for 48% of late payments and account for most of the £24 billion owed to small and medium suppliers in the UK.
- Late payments for UK Government tenders or charity work constitute just 9%, less than public/private concerns.
- Both the public and the third sector have improved their record in recent years .
- Prominent excuses given include a lack of payment authorisation and reports that the “cheque is in the post”.
Encouraging Prompt Payment?
Businesses can be scared to “name and shame” large corporations who mess around with their tender contracts, despite the fact that late payments break businesses. In these circumstances, it can be difficult to know exactly who to complain to. A poor UK government tender PQQ structure can be flagged up for the Cabinet Office to look into, but what about a multinational?
You could try encouraging prompt payment by the tender issuer. The letter to the Business Minister suggested a clampdown on “prompt payment discounts”, a strategy in which suppliers offer discounts on products in exchange for guarantees of payment on time. Several business advice websites suggest doing just that to incentivise punctual payments for commercial tenders. A company considering this should ask themselves whether they want to be paying the buyer extra to do what they claimed they were going to do on the tender contracts.
What can businesses do?
The best answer – and unfortunately the most complex to implement – is to make your business more resilient in times of unexpected cash flow problems relating to late payment. We can help you transform the capabilities of your business. Firstly, it’s important to consider how many sources of income the company has. It is dangerous for a company to rely on just one major contract or tender. Another important safeguard to pursue is a high credit score. Being transparent about the financial state of the company can be helpful in other aspects of winning bids, especially for new companies who may not be able to provide the several years of financial data requested by most UK government tender PQQs. Win that Bid’s Bid Management service can help you assemble the right documents.
Don’t let yourself get pushed around.
Companies should also research the organisation issuing the tender. The sources of information aren’t always immediately obvious. This is an area in which a consultancy like Win that Bid can really help you in assessing whether to pursue an opportunity. Carrying out credit checks on potential customers is a good start. Communication between the supplier and the customer is always important: You should be clear about what the payment terms of the tender contract are and request clarification if they aren’t clear. And if the customer does try to change the terms of the contract, a supplier should make it clear that it expects something in return.