Late payment has been an issue for small businesses for a long time, and it was one of the campaign issues for the Forum of Private Business when it was formed in 1977 and it remains high on our agenda to this day. Paul Uppal, the previous Forum of Private Business Non-Executive Director and former Small Business Commissioner gives his thoughts on late payment and the impact it has on small businesses.
Having been the UK’s first Small Business commissioner and having run my own SME for over twenty years the issue of late payment is one I have lived and breathed my whole life. Having personally spoken to over 2,500 small businesses about this issue I am still struck by the financial and psychological damage caused by this practice. Recently I was on a Zoom call in which a Cabinet Minister described his reason for wanting to become an MP and change things. Having run a small business, he described the anxious wait for a substantial payment to the family software company. It arrived eventually but a few days more and the firm would have gone bust. On the same call, another individual explained how they never got paid and he lost his business, house, and family. It is almost impossible to describe the pain and worry that hundreds of thousands of SMEs experience every year because of this practice. The impact on business health, wellbeing and business growth are enormous – yet so easy to solve.
We can measure the damage in terms of the number of businesses folding each year, what we cannot quantify is the damage to business potential. As Humans, we are one of the few mammals to be bipedal. Some theories suggest that the moment we moved from all fours to standing up we changed our perspective as we looked at the savannah and the horizons at the edge. This new wonder led us on our development path to the people we are today. This simple truth applies to SMEs up and down the UK today. Freed from the shackles of late payment business will thrive, grow, and prosper. This is a cultural problem where some businesses feel it is acceptable to pay late and, in some cases, they make it a normal practice within their business and ignore the damage it does to other businesses and the people who run them. The simple truth is that the moment we all collectively move on this issue the sooner everyone will benefit. It is simply a win-win for all involved.
Find out more about Paul Uppal and watch him discuss late payment and the issues facing our high street with with Ian Cass our Managing Director.
To address the issue of late payment we are doing a number of things, including campaigning to make 30 day payment terms a legal requirement, we want to help members with their late payments suppliers and highlight bad business practice in our Wall of Shame. Plus we also want to offer our support and advice in dealing with credit control and payment. Please take a look at these key areas clicking each of the boxes below.