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Small Business Advice: Improve Your Accounts Receivable Collection Cycle Now

Almost any small business can use advice on how to improve its collection cycle. The first line of defense against late payments is a complete invoice. Your bills should be accurate, detailed and easy to understand. If difficult to understand, then your client will need to call for additional information. That translates into “you have been added to their to-do list,” which increases the time of your collection cycle. Include on each invoice:

– Your company’s contact information: name, address, tax id number, phone and contact person
– The date the invoice was prepared
– The customer’s name and address
– A description of the goods or services sold to the customer – itemize, if possible (An itemized bill is harder to contest.)
– The amount due, with sales tax amount broken out
– When the invoice is due

Once prepared, send invoices promptly. Another piece of small business advice is the longer you take to bill a customer the less likely you are to receive payment for the goods and services provided.

This simple calculation gives you a powerful tracking tool that helps you adjust your cash in-flow on an as-needed basis:

Step 1: Calculate your average collection period by dividing your total sales for the previous year by 365. This gives you your average daily sales volume.
(Total Sales / 365 Days = Average Daily Sales Volume)

Step 2: Then divide your average daily sales volume into your current accounts receivable balance to get the number of days it takes to collect a bill.
(Average Accounts Receivable Collection Period = Average Daily Sales Volume / Current Accounts Receivable Balance)

Now that you know your average accounts receivable collection period, you then need to interpret that number as it relates to your business by asking four important questions.

Question #1: Is your average accounts receivable collection period in line with the company’s credit policy? If your credit terms provide your customers with 30 days to pay their bills, then you should expect that your average collection period will be somewhere around 30 days – maybe a little longer. If your average collection period is 60 days then you need to examine other factors that affect billing.

Question #2: Are you billing your customers consistently? Look at your Accounts Receivable Aging Report, the report that summarizes all of your outstanding invoices by client and number of days outstanding. Are the outstanding invoices on that report related to products and services sold within the last 45 days, or are they related to products and services you provided three months ago and just got around to billing? Create a procedure to bill customers once a week or each time you have a completed sale.

Question #3: Are you billing your customers effectively? Are your customers
calling you with questions about your invoice? Perhaps you didn’t have that important upfront conversation with your client about how you charge for your products and services. By having this conversation, confusion and anxiety over wondering if the customer is going to pay you can be eliminated.

Question #4: Are you tracking overdue accounts and taking consistent action to collect past due accounts? Do you have an effective tool in place to track when an account comes due, and knowing who has paid their bills and who has not? When a customer’s invoice goes past its due date, is there a procedure in place to follow-up with that customer? Sometimes sending customer statements and making friendly reminder calls is all it takes.

By answering these four basic questions, you’ll soon be running a fine-tuned collection machine.

For more information, contact Elite Bookkeeping & Tax Services at (800) 416-3820 or (775) 884-6188123 West Nye Lane, Suite 103, Carson City, NV 89706. Visit our website at www.elitebookkeeping.biz