Daily Archives: August 2, 2011

Time to Shorten those Payment Cycles

If you want a sustained recovery, it’s time to start shortening those payment cycles. During the recession, the average payment cycle time in many companies shot up due to “cash flow issues”, and it’s already coming back to bite them in the rear end. As SI has said before, this is not the solution to cash flow and any “cost savings” that the business appears to benefit from (by having more cash in the bank that can potentially earn interest on short 60 or 90 day notes) is more than eaten up by the higher costs the suppliers have to charge to make up for the high interest rates they have to pay to obtain working capital.

It’s important to remember that late payments put extraordinary pressure on suppliers, especially small and medium sized suppliers, which often desperately need cash to purchase equipment, raw materials, and, most importantly, meet their payroll. Furthermore, in addition to cash flow problems caused by late payments, many firms incur significantly extra costs for the time and money spent chasing payments and securing interim financing, usually at exorbitantly high rates – which can often exceed 20% compared to your rate of borrowing, which can be as low as 5%.

All these costs do nothing but drive up the supplier’s cost of operation, and effectively, the price they will need to charge to maintain enough profitability to survive. That’s why many prices for components are rising faster than the raw commodity costs. The lack of prompt payments has cut many suppliers to the bone. Extending payment terms doesn’t help with cash flow or “cost savings”. Extending payment terms only drives up the price in the long term while increasing the risk of a major supply disruption as a supplier could go out of business if all its customers take too long to pay.

So instead of extending Days Payable Outstanding, consider looking at other strategies that can lower your cost of operations – such as improving forecast accuracy, balanced just in time (JIT) production, and low cost financing options that are available to you, as a large company, and not your supplier. Better forecasts lead to less missed opportunities and a reduced need to clear inventory at significant markdowns, balanced just in time (JIT) production reduces inventory costs, which is much better than just shifting them to a third party, and financing your purchase at prime or less will cost everyone less in the long run that forcing a supplier to take out short term financing at 20% to 40% per annum.