Monday, 12 May 2014

Do you really try to become a preferred customer?

18 months ago I co-authored a Whitepaper warning that adopting a short-term approach to procurement strategy could prove detrimental when recovery from the Great Recession arrives. As we approach elections in the UK we are told recovery has been reached, whether or not you feel and see that is debatable.

Today's Financial Times reports on research for the European Payment Index (EPI) that suggests, across the EU, €360bn has been written off as a result or late payment of bills and invoices. The research considered responses from the 31 European companies plus Turkey and Russia. It appears that suppliers are waiting 47 days beyond the contracted term for payment. Now just think what the impact would be on you if your employer told you that you would have to wait a month and a half for your salary.

Of course the 47 days is a sweeping generalisation, but how do you think your firm's payment record would compare if benchmarked against Sweden's delay in payment in the public sector of seven days and with days in the private sector? The Swedes have adopted a system of fining debtors with automatic penalties to protect suppliers.

In the grand scheme of procurement swings and roundabouts there is a time when suppliers have to make decisions between competing buyers as to which should receive preferential service, or indeed delivery at all. When there are plenty of alternative suppliers the buyer can perhaps be a bit complacent and arrogant, assuming suppliers will want to supply. But if you have a history of late payment, don't expect suppliers to be beating a path to supply you, others, perhaps those based in Sweden, can expect to be more attractive for the delivery of quality, price and lead-time. But things could be even worse: what if that critical source for your manufacturing line goes into liquidation due to cash-flow problems?

The report should be a warning that it may well be time to get your payment process improved before your suppliers opt to delay in supplying you.

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