In business, companies provide products or services to customers and if all goes well, you have little cause to actively chase for payments.
Unfortunately, you may face a situation where a debtor simply seems to vanish.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a client going astray.
If your protective mechanisms fail and a debtor vanishes, there are still things you can do to trace them:
Anita Brook is MD of Debts Assist, a credit control and debt recovery firm, which helps businesses improve cash flow while keeping business relationships intact.
What you need to know before that croaky phone call….
Eskimos have, it is said, 200 words to describe the different types of snow. The British have a similar number to describe not going to work: pulling a sickie, swinging the lead, bunking off, having a duvet day, as well as the plain vanilla description: skiving. I mustn’t forget my wife’s personal favourite: business development. Our creativity for thinking up euphemisms for taking unauthorised time off work is matched only by our propensity for bizarre excuses to explain unauthorised absence.
A recent Price Waterhouse survey of 1,190 people reported one in three people admitted to having lied to take sick leave, costing British business up to £32 billion a year. Most people skived off because they were bored or depressed. In many cases they didn’t see it as being dishonest because they thought they were owed it by their employer for having worked hard. For 21 per cent of respondents, family was the real reason behind pretending to be ill, emphasising the importance of flexible work practices as a means of reducing absenteeism.
Illness was the most common excuse given and some people admitted faking symptoms around the office in preparation for pulling a sickie. It reminds me of a friend’s father (now sadly deceased) who would, every now and then, get a flare up of the “old malaria” and have to take a couple of days off, much to the bemusement of his employers in St Albans (he had, of course, contracted malaria whilst in the Army on duty in the Far East during the War and, apparently, it does recur every now and then). If I remember correctly (and probably not, because my memory isn’t what it was these days) Bridget Jones’ method for taking a sickie was to announce she had an appointment with her gynaecologist. That ensured no further questions would be forthcoming from her, male, boss.
On the subject of dodgy memory, my favourite excuse in the report was given by the person who claimed amnesia as an excuse for not attending work; what, they forgot where they worked? Or that it was a weekday and they had to get up? A close contender was the man who said he had to take his dog to the vet, having previously told his employer the previous week that it had died. Other excuses included having being hit with a dart in the back of the head (sounds quite nasty, actually), injury during sex and someone who said their dentist had diagnosed early signs of dementia “in their gums”.
If you’re thinking of pulling a sickie but can’t think of any good excuse then, never fear, there’s an app called, appropriately enough, “skiver” to help. You put in how many days you want off and it will come up with an appropriate and plausible sounding ailment and list of symptoms to cover you. Fancy one day off? Have a migraine. A week? Try a dose of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Six months? Bubonic plague, perhaps? Helpfully the app will also generate an email or text to your boss so you don’t have to break the bad news, which might be embarrassing if you’re phoning from the pub. We’re not told how sophisticated the messages are but I hope it doesn’t say “I am suffering from housemaid’s knee today and won’t be in. Signed My Mum”.
Employees should also beware the schoolboy error made by one Kyle Doyle in Australia a few years ago. He was man enough to phone his boss to say he was unwell and then updated his Facebook status to read “is not going to work. Fxxx it, still trashed. Sickie woo!!!” whilst forgetting that his boss was one of his friends on Facebook. Silly. Unemployment followed.
Employers - don’t despair. There’s an anti-skiving app for you called Crystal Ball. It is designed to cut down skiving amongst non-office based workers by tracking them via the GPS on their mobile phones whilst out and about. Ostensibly the idea is to keep a watch on expenses and mileage claimed, but the wider use for it is clear.
Georgina Harris explains how lawyers will help – with no fee
Planned to launch this week, professional body the Law Society has set up a helpline that will help victims of the riots get free legal advice.
With a particular focus on helping small independent shops and businesses to restore their lives and finances, a specialist operator on the phone helpline will take details of the cases, make referrals where necessary and place cases using the current network of pro bono (free) agencies.
Law Society president John Wotton explained “We have already seen how a collaborative effort of this kind proved extremely valuable for the victims in the wake of the London bombings.”
“Over the coming months, the victims will need legal advice on insurance, contract law and a host of other issues. It is vitally important that people who need practical help to get their businesses or personal lives back on track in these very difficult circumstances should have a quick route to specialist advice.”
Find details of the helpline at the Law Society.
In the aftermath of the rioting throughout England this week – well, what we’re hoping is the aftermath – thousands of businesses are facing eye-watering cash losses. With estimates that, for example, one in ten of the UK’s leisure and retail business have been hit by sudden disaster, many firms who have been spared to date are concerned. But forewarned is forearmed.
Find out how to protect your firm now with our pick of the best web action guides – and, if you’re already facing the clean-up, the final factsheet takes you through the maze of getting your business back on its feet.
And if the worst happens…