Determining the credit-worthiness of a potential client can be a daunting task, even for seasoned professionals. A brand-new company with few assets might spoil you with glittering generalities and promises of prompt payment, but no assets can turn into aging receivables quicker than you think. Before you extend credit to a new client, it’s best to give them an in-depth review to ensure that your money isn’t getting thrown away.
With unforeseen business issues such as bankruptcy, transfers, sales, or even death, the process of lending money can get a lot messier than anticipated. Because of this, it’s good to prepare for these circumstances and evaluate all potential risks prior to beginning the lending process. While these problems can devastate anyone and any business, there are some warning signs or red flags to look out for that might indicate that a business you’re working with might fall victim.
Know Your Clients
The first thing you’ll want to do when you get a new client is run a few generic tests on them. Check their county court’s website for any records of them being sued. You’ll have access to the total balance sued for, which gives insight to their financial state. Balances of less than two thousand dollars should raise major red flags, as it indicates that they weren’t able to pay back this nominal amount in a timely manner. At the same time, also take caution if you notice very large balances as this might show that the debtor might not have been actively trying to pay the balance.
No matter what the balance is, there’s a reason it hasn’t been paid and it’s probably smart to talk to the potential client and see if there might have been other circumstances interfering with their ability to pay back their creditor. Quick lien searches on the owner won’t give you much insight to a company’s assets, but it will give you a good liabilities picture. If nothing pops up when you search the municipal court or common pleas website for liens, also run a quick search on the business and its principles. Make sure you’re checking a few neighboring counties for the most holistic view.
If you’re looking to get an asset picture on the owner, search for the company’s agent and incorporator on the Secretary of State’s website. Sometimes the incorporator and the owner are the same person, but if not, look at who they are and do some research on them, too. If the company was incorporated within the last six months, this should raise some red flags. If they don’t have a lot of money behind them and they’ve only been open for a few months, make sure you’re really investigating before you loan them anything. If they have a lot of money behind them, then not having a lot of credit shouldn’t be too much of a concern; they should be willing to sign a personal guarantee. Companies open for upwards of ten years are a safe bet; a nice website and positive reviews mean you’re probably lending to someone who’s creditworthy and will pay you back in a timely manner.
Proactive Awareness “Red Flags”
A good way to learn more about their financial responsibility is to call their credit references. Ask the referrer’s specific questions about how often your potential client misses payments, is late on payments, and the current terms they’ve agreed to. It might also be beneficial to ask if they’ve ever disputed a bill and if they have what the nature of it was. Having a previous dispute is not automatically a red flag, however, having several disputes might be cause for concern. Also run a search to see if the business (or business owner) has ever filed for bankruptcy. While you likely won’t see this, it’s a huge red flag that’s worth further investigation if you do.
The best thing that you can do with your current clients to ensure that you collect payment is work with them. As long as both parties are communicating their concerns openly, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Collecting payments can be difficult and often times are unsuccessful if you don’t collect within the 60 days past due, which is why companies like ours exist. Whether you have a difficult client that’s avoiding payment or you are part of a high-volume business that naturally experiences collecting on clients, unpaid balances can quickly become a large issue that puts a damper on your own cash flow. If you’re looking for professional, firm and polite collection assistance, give Point Law a call today.