z Saltare, Author at Saltare

Halton Borough Council in North West England has become the first local authority in the UK to adopt a new fintech platform that will allow them to further support their supply chain by paying suppliers early. They will deliver notifications of invoice approvals providing clarity and certainty over payments combined with the option of offering suppliers the choice to get paid sooner.

Using Saltare’s Early Pay platform Halton will make their supply chains more efficient, providing suppliers with certainty as to when their invoices will be paid. As part of an initial agreement, the Council will enrol suppliers onto the platform giving suppliers the option to get paid as soon as an invoice has been approved.

As part of the platform functionality, the Council will also have the option to secure discounts in exchange for early or immediate payment. In return, this will enable the Council to reinvest the savings made into supporting frontline services.

Mervyn Murphy, Head of Procurement of Halton Borough Council says the introduction of Early Pay will help the authority boost its social value within the community, whilst also giving greater autonomy of supply chain relations: “Halton Borough Council recognises the challenges faced by businesses in these difficult times and has always looked for ways to better support them.  We have previously offered early payment solutions in this space, however, Saltare brings something different that complements our other payment options for suppliers. We look forward to providing our suppliers with the opportunity to benefit from Saltare’s Early Pay.”

Ant Persse, CEO of Saltare says that technology has the power to change the way local authorities are able to engage with their communities and supply change: “Early Pay will give Halton the opportunity to further support their supply chain, reducing anxiety faced by many businesses and helping to inject cash into the community at a time when the economy needs it most. We’re looking forward to working with Halton and progressing our partnership.”

Halton will integrate Early Pay within the coming months. Halton suppliers will automatically receive invoice approval notifications and will be given the option of early payment offers, with no obligation to accept, either way. This will provide suppliers with peace of mind in knowing exactly when they’ll be paid, thereby reducing demand placed on the suppliers’ credit control arrangements.

(October 2022) UK Fintech Saltare has secured its first listing on Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) G Cloud 13 framework under Lot 2: Cloud software category.

By securing the listings on the G-Cloud Framework, Saltare is now eligible to actively supply Public Sector bodies across the country with its market leading early payments software, Early Pay.

The G-Cloud 13  Framework allows cloud based solution providers to register a product listing within strict government frameworks. The process ensures that Public Sector organisations can purchase solutions as and when needed from businesses with approved listings.

As part of the application, Saltares’ Early Pay platform has been approved for use by UK Public Sector  to enable them to boost supply chain relations and improve payment practices across all suppliers.

Ant Persse, CEO of Saltare said the approval of Saltare’s application shows the benefits and significance of early payments: “UK Public Sector work with hundreds of thousands of suppliers across many sectors, and managing this is a mammoth task.

“However, enabling early payments into the supply chains, can not only boost relationships but also encourage local business to develop and grow through the availability of funds. We’re looking forward to working with organisations within the UK’s Public Sector

Crown Commercial Service supports the Public Sector to achieve maximum commercial value when procuring common goods and services. In 2021/22, CCS helped the public sector to achieve commercial benefits equal to £2.8bn – supporting world-class public services that offer best value for taxpayers.

The G-Cloud 13 framework will come into effect on 9th November 2022, making it easier for Public Sector organisations to access cloud technology and innovation by pre-qualifying suppliers for quality, stability, security, compliance and pricing factors.

Cash flow is critical to any business. Sadly, payment uncertainty and late payments leave many suppliers struggling to maintain healthy cash flow, putting their futures at risk. And causing disruptions to your supply chain and the economy as a whole. 

We are on a mission to change that. 

Early Pay by Saltare improves the flow of cash to the entire supply chain in a way that works for everyone. Enabling you to protect your supply chain, become the buyer of choice and deliver real social value.  

Watch our short video to find out how.

Transform the way you pay and contact Saltare today.

Arrange a demo to see just how Early Pay will deliver benefit to your business and your supply chain.  

Contact our team at [email protected] for more details. 

Early Pay is a unique payment solution that offers a quick and easy way to facilitate early payments to suppliers, improving the flow of cash to the entire supply chain, whilst delivering sustainable economic and social benefits. 

The challenge

Local authorities continue to face significant financial pressures of real term cuts, increasing costs and rises in demand for public services. With the added pressure to deliver on the National Procurement Strategy, such as fulfilling social value, building greater connections with local suppliers and embracing procurement innovation. ​

Effective supply chain management and strong supplier relationships have never been more important. ​

The solution

By using Early Pay local authorities can stimulate their local economy, supporting it to level-up through early payment offers to local businesses, helping them to prosper.

​How does it work?

Its really smart and really simple.

Once a council has approved an invoice, Early Pay will notify the supplier. The council can offer to pay early, and choose whether to apply a discount. The supplier can accept the offer if they so wish. There’s no obligation either way, but the supplier will have peace of mind of knowing exactly when they’ll be paid.​

Due to the flexibility of Early Pay, councils have the option to prioritise local businesses and choose to provide early payment with no discount. Any discounts applied to other supplier groups can generate additional savings that can then be reinvested into local services.

Transform the way you pay and contact Saltare today.

​Get in touch to arrange a demo to see how Early Pay will deliver benefit to your organisation whilst enabling you to generate significant social value, strengthen communities and help local businesses prosper.​

Download further information.

Local Government and Early Pay – Facilitating the Future of Public Sector Payments

From road maintenance to social care, councils’ responsibilities are wide-ranging and complex. To deliver the essential services every community deserves and requires, local authorities work with a diverse array of suppliers. That means they spend a considerable amount on procuring third-party products and services.

In 2021 alone, councils spent £70 billion with third parties. This represents a 7% increase on 2020’s spending. Both figures highlight just how important third parties are to local government service provision and the key role procurement and commissioning play in councils’ ability to deliver those services.

As an organisation committed to reshaping the way people think about payments, in particular SME payments, Saltare finds the relationship between councils and their suppliers full of potential. That’s why we are exhibiting at this year’s County Council Network (CCN) Annual Conference and dedicating this blog to examining the interplay between council service provision, payment processing, and our product, Early Pay.

In this article, we explore how councils can use a digital early payment processing solution to benefit local businesses and the communities in which they operate. Taking three influential local economy whitepapers as our starting point, we show you how Early Pay can contribute to efficient service provision and a healthier relationship between key factors in the community.

But, first things first, let’s provide a little context.

CCN and the role of Early Pay

The CCN comprises 36 local authorities and is England’s largest association of councils. Its 2,600 councillors represent around 26 million people, cover 86% of the country’s landmass and are responsible for 39% of its GVA (CCN). In other words, they are instrumental in determining how local services are provided for a significant percentage of the country.

The CCN Annual Conference (20th to 22nd of November 2022) is an opportunity for those councillors to convene and share information, ideas and research. This year, the conference will focus on the following topics:

Delivering economic growth
Local government finance
Levelling up
Climate change
Adult social care and children services
Housing

We strongly believe Early Pay can help councils tackle many of these challenges and achieve their main aims.

Emphasising the local

In August 2022, Locality and Lloyds Bank Foundation released the Principles in Practice report. Based on extensive research, the report examines how local authorities can build long-term partnerships between councils and the people and organisations they represent, while also unlocking the power of community.

Much of the Locality report expands on research conducted by the New Economics Foundation. This key paper was entitled Plugging the Leaks and focused on maximising value from local government spending. Finally, the Localis report, True Value, has also provided invaluable information. These three reports are the foundation on which we built this article.

At Saltare, we believe local authorities and businesses must work together to deliver value to their communities and generate economic growth. To do so, they need a comprehensive set of tools that facilitate relationship-building and reward investment in local services.

Digital innovation is vital

Commitment to innovation is central to the Keep it Local philosophy. Locality’s report makes it clear that finding new ways of working and developing strong connections between councils and regional suppliers is essential to stimulating the local economy. This is relevant on several levels.

First, faced with severe budget restrictions and public sector funding cuts, councils are struggling to deliver the services their communities require. In many instances, they are being asked to do more with less. This is not a problem that will simply disappear.

While working within these limitations will always be tricky, there are ways to relieve the pressure. Most notably, digital technology. Digital automation technologies, like Early Pay, drive efficiencies and reduce costs, while allowing employees to focus on more nuanced and valuable work.

In the case of Early Pay, automated early payment offer processing ensures council employees do not have to devote time to setting up, managing and processing early payment rebate calculations. It turns a labour-intensive process into one that is more time efficient. It saves councils money and streamlines their operations.

New ideas mean a fresh approach

Innovative solutions as a whole (not just digital technology) are important. Councils must explore new ways of delivering services and challenge procurement orthodoxy to ensure their choices represent maximum value for money. The Principles in Practice deals with issues in great depth.

Keep it Local researchers argue “big outsourcing contracts” that are justified through appeals to economies of scale “lead to tick box, one-size-fits-all services, that don’t deal with people’s problems at source.” On the contrary, they often artificially inflate service demand by creating failure demand – “demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer.” (Locality)

In other words, large-scale, outsourced services cannot resolve issues because they cannot provide relevant and targeted solutions that meet the complex needs of local people. Instead, they refer the individual to another service. This leads to people bouncing around the system until they fall between the cracks.

The NEF report goes on to argue that “residents don’t all think alike, and no two communities have the same views on an issue… local people can, and need to, find strategies that are appropriate to their area.” This encourages a local by default approach that recognises every locality is different and needs to be treated as such.

Local businesses provide better services and stimulate the economy

At the heart of the local by default argument is the idea that local businesses and community organisations are more equipped to harness local relationships to offer tailored support to residents. They understand the nuances and complexity of local problems and are better able to prevent them. Local businesses can provide services that resolve, rather than refer, and they minimise failure demand. Essentially, choosing to work with local SMEs improves public service provision.

But there are economic benefits, too.

When councils partner with local businesses, public money is injected back into the local economy. Studies show that every pound a council spends on a community organisation (a local business, community group, or charity) creates £2.50 for the local economy (Locality). By employing local people and utilising local supply chains, council spending on local suppliers stimulates and grows the local economy.

At a time when many SMEs are struggling, councils have the opportunity to step up and provide support by investing in their products and services. However, this is not a handout. It is beneficial for all involved. Councils deliver more effective and targeted services, while local suppliers benefit from additional business and investment.

Early payment means additional help for local businesses

However, councils can go further than using local businesses to provide services. They can also empower and benefit them by guaranteeing their cash flow via early payment offers.

One of the biggest problems SMEs face is late payments. Currently, UK SMEs spend around 900,000 hours every day chasing payments (Tide) and approximately £200 billion is locked up in unpaid invoices. Late payments affect three in five SME owners (Barclays) and one in three UK businesses report that late payments threaten their survival (Time Finance). A recent Xero and PayPal study shows that British businesses are owed an average of £23,360 in overdue invoices.

Councils can play a role in alleviating this problem by ensuring payment is, at the very least, made within the agreed terms. They can also utilise payment tools, like Early Pay, to provide small and medium sized businesses with more certainty and protect their cash flow. By ensuring SME business owners know when they will receive payment, councils give businesses the security they need to invest in their organisation, guaranteeing their future and facilitating growth.

The impact of early payment on individuals’ health

The impact of early payment and the ability to better manage cash flow does not stop at economic growth. Small business owners in the UK are facing a mental health crisis that we can largely attribute to the uncertainty surrounding late payments. 88% of people who run micro-businesses (less than ten employees) worry about late payments (Brodmin). 17% of all business owners say late payments undermine their confidence in their professional abilities (Pay UK).

Late payments cause SME owners sleepless nights and result in stress, anxiety, depression and extreme anger. One in nine business owners has considered accessing professional support to help cope with their anxiety over late payments (Pay UK). Combine this with the emotional toll of the current cost-of-living and energy crises, and you have a commercial environment that is not conducive to small business success or happy and healthy lives.

Mental health issues also directly affect physical health. High stress levels can result in severe health problems like heart disease, while exacerbating conditions like asthma and gastrointestinal disease (Mental Health). In turn, this places an even greater strain on public health services.

By using payment processing tools like Early Pay, councils can play a part in tackling the root cause of these health issues. Small business owners do not necessarily want reduced payment terms. They want certainty. They want to know when they will receive their payment so they can plan accordingly.

With Early Pay, once the council approves a supplier’s invoice, it can also offer to pay early and receive a small discount for doing so. There is no obligation to request or accept the discount offer. Either way, the supplier knows exactly when they will receive payment.

Using Early Pay to prioritise local businesses

Local authorities can chose to use the Early Pay discount feature to prioritise local businesses and generate additional savings that it can reinvest in local services. It does so by enabling councils to segment their suppliers and distinguish between local companies and other businesses.

With local suppliers, councils can choose to provide early payment and request no discount. This provides local businesses with the highest level of support and helps build strong relationships between councils and local SMEs. For companies outside the local area, councils can choose to offer early payment in return for a small discount on the invoice. They can then use this discount to reinvest in local services, such as Social Care and Adult and Children Services.

Early Pay helps councils cement their relationships with suppliers by providing certainty and treating them with respect. Local businesses benefit and councils generate significant social value by strengthening communities and helping local people prosper.

Conclusion

We believe strategic partnerships between local government and SMEs are key to economic growth and improved service provision.

By using Early Pay to facilitate payments to local suppliers, councils achieve three things. They:

Stimulate the local economy and support levelling-up through investment in community businesses.
Encourage a local by default approach that results in improved service provision and delivering social value for the community.
Financial benefits achieved through potential early payment discounts. Plus operational efficiencies as a result of reduced inbound invoice queries

But these are only the headline benefits.

Working with local service providers strengthens communities and engages the local workforce. Adopting early payment processes tackles the root cause of many business owners’ mental health concerns. And opting for local suppliers and implementing early payment practices secures local authorities’ supply chains.

For councils, early payment processes and tools are just one part of the solution. But they are a positive and powerful step toward more rewarding public-private relationships and a system that recognises small and medium sized local businesses can, should and must play a part in delivering essential services in the future.

If you want to learn more about how Early Pay can benefit your council and local small businesses, please do not hesitate to get in touch and speak to our experienced and knowledgeable team. We look forward to hearing from you.

In this episode, our CEO Ant Persse, talks to Matt Blakeley, the Network Development Manager of the Smart Manufacturing Alliance (SMA) about how we’re supporting SMEs cashflow by incentivising large buying organisations to offer early payments throughout their supply chains to reduce late payments and keep cash flowing between businesses.

It is estimated that 82% of businesses fail not because of lack of profit, but through lack of cash. Yet, studies suggest UK SMEs are currently waiting on almost £200bn tied up in unpaid invoices.

Saltare is proud to be one of the Smart Manufacturing Alliance’s partners.

Visit the SMA website to listen to the Podcast:

Smart Manufacturing Alliance Podcast #6 – Cashflow – incentivising early payments to strengthen supply chains – Smart Manufacturing Alliance (sma-uk.co.uk)

Or play the podcast by clicking on the link below:

cashflow-incentivising-early-payments-to-strengthen-supply-chains

Today, late payments are one of the defining features of the UK SME landscape. It is a wide-reaching problem that directly affects three in five SME owners and indirectly impacts a significant portion of the UK workforce (Barclays). While the financial repercussions of late payments are considerable, the impact on small business owners’ mental health is just as troublesome. In this article, we examine the effect late payments have on mental health and what steps can be taken to resolve the issue.

An established late payment culture

In 2021, the UK boasted 5.548 million small businesses (defined as having 0-49 employees), constituting 99.2% of all UK businesses (GOV UK). 62% of those businesses have experienced an increase in late payments and/or had payments completely frozen since COVID (FSB).

One in three UK businesses reports that late payments threaten their survival.

(Time Finance)

That is the highest figure in Europe. Late payments aren’t confined to a few isolated cases, nor is it a minor concern. Worryingly, late payments have become a part of the UK business culture. And it has a real and measurable impact on the lives of hardworking business owners.

For some small businesses, late payment means they cannot invest in growing the business. For many, it means they struggle to sustain their business. For others, it means the journey is over.

The cost of late payments to small businesses

The financial cost of late payments for micro, small and medium-sized businesses is clear. Smes are the engine room of the UK economy and the heart of communities up and down the country. The repercussions are felt at every level if they cannot be sure of their cash flow.

A lack of cash flow clarity means investing in your own business feels far riskier. This limits innovation and hampers growth, resulting in a sluggish commercial environment and stagnating businesses. This is only exacerbated by the current energy price crisis, the fallout from Brexit and the slow post-pandemic recovery. Right now, small businesses need certainty more than ever.

The average small business is owed £23,360 in overdue invoices (The Accountant). That is a significant hole in any company’s finances. With this in mind, it comes as little surprise that a remarkable 37% of UK small business owners have considered closing their company because of cash flow issues caused by late payments. (The Accountant).

While this causes considerable problems for the small businesses owed this money, it also causes disruptions in larger organisations’ supply chains.

A devastating mental health impact

Though the financial cost of late payments is widely recognised, we often overlook the impact on individuals. For many workers, separating their professional and personal lives and ensuring they do not take work home with them is a challenge. For small business owners, it is almost impossible.

This has a terrible and terrifying effect on those individuals’ mental health. 88% of people who run micro-businesses (less than ten employees) worry about late payments (Brodmin).  A quarter of SME business owners say that late payments harm their life outside the workplace. 17% of all business owners say late payments undermine their confidence in their professional abilities (Pay UK).

PPD research shows that the four leading mental health issues resulting from late payments are stress, insomnia, depression and extreme anger. One in nine business owners has considered accessing professional support to help cope with their anxiety over late payments (Pay UK). Business owners are suffering personally due to their customers’ inability or unwillingness to pay invoices within terms.

There is also a clear link between physical and mental health. High stress levels can lead to severe health problems like heart disease (Mental Health). It also exacerbates existing conditions like asthma and gastrointestinal disease. Poor mental health results in poor physical health and significantly strains the NHS.

Powerless and lacking recourse

Many small business owners feel powerless when faced with late payments. They have few recourses, and chasing payment is usually time-consuming, expensive and ineffective. This only adds to the problem. The feeling that nothing can be done compounds the stress and anxiety business owners already feel.

In a sense, this is what we mean by the UK building a culture of late payments. The practice is accepted, generally goes unpunished, and those on the receiving end can do nothing about it. Though the practice is pervasive, larger businesses (the organisations responsible for late payment) are typically unaware of its effect on small business owners’ day-to-day lives.

Part of the process of changing this culture of late payments involves raising awareness. The better big businesses understand their role in the problem and the repercussions (both financially and on mental health), the more likely they are to make changes. However, awareness alone is not enough.

We believe improving the situation requires a three-pronged approach.

1 Making larger businesses aware of the effects of late payments and their responsibilities to smaller companies.

2 Developing tools that make payment within agreed terms easier.

3 Introducing new legislation to tackle and eradicate this culture of late payments.

Raising awareness and encouraging ethical buying

Let’s start by looking at the first of these points – making larger organisations aware of the problem and their responsibilities. ESG regulations are one of the key ways we can achieve this.

ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance. The UK government introduced the ESG regulations as a response to the COVID pandemic and as part of its programme for a “Green Industrial Revolution.” They emphasise a new way of doing business – one that recognises the environmental, social and governance challenges we face and the role commerce has to play in creating a brighter future.

In the context of late payments, the Social element of ESG is most important. ESG aims to encourage companies to become “ethical buyers.” Being an ethical buyer should mean you pay your suppliers on time. Liz Barclay, the Small Business Commissioner, made this clear in a recent conversation with Saltare. “We need to get payment performance as an ESG standard,” she noted. “It is about looking at your payment practices and thinking about how well you treat everybody in your supply chain.”

If payment performance were to become a recognised part of the ESG regulations, it would be a significant step forwards for small business owners. Though ESG reporting is not currently mandatory, experts suspect that the regulations will become more rigorous and comprehensive over the coming years. The government hopes that businesses will adopt ESG reporting without the need for legislative coercion and that it will become a widely accepted framework for commercial operations.

Introducing tools that facilitate payment to terms

Many larger organisations do not maliciously or intentionally withhold payment. In the vast majority of instances, a lack of awareness or complex bureaucracy causes delays. Between large organisations and micro and small businesses, there is a disconnect.

By their very nature, large companies are impersonal. They are an amalgamation of finely tuned systems and processes that enable the business to operate on a large scale. On the other hand, micro and small businesses are very personal. Micro businesses are often indistinguishable from the individual running them. Regularly, they are one-person operations. This disconnect means big companies find it incredibly difficult to understand the impact of their actions on small business owners.

Digital tools can bridge this gap by ensuring companies make payments within the agreed terms. Early Pay is an excellent example. An innovative payment solution, Early Pay is a quick, and easy way to offer and facilitate early payments. Once an invoice is approved, Early Pay will notify the supplier. You can offer to pay early (and choose whether to apply a discount or not). Your supplier can chose to accept the offer if they wish to.

Buyers benefit from a more efficient payment process, and a more secure and sustainable supply chain. Suppliers benefit from the peace of mind of knowing exactly when they will receive their money. There is no need to chase invoices, and the suppliers’ cash flow is guaranteed. Of course, there are a whole host of other benefits, too. Early Pay also reduces inbound invoice enquiries and operational costs, generates valuable supply chain data, and enriches the wider commercial environment.

Legislation and a government leading by example

Currently, the strongest piece of legislation a small business can rely on is the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act. It empowers small businesses to claim a fixed sum, as well as interest, on outstanding payments. However, pursuing a large company through these means is time-consuming, expensive and stressful. It can have a significant impact on mental health. For many small business owners, it is a risk they are unwilling to take. 

Though we are unaware of any current legislative response to the problem, the issue is at the forefront of the Small Business Commissioners mind. When speaking to Saltare, Liz Barclay explained that late payments are a significant issue. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of their local communities. They put so much back into the social fabric and communities they are in. But small businesses go to the wall if they cannot manage their cash flow. They need to know when the money will hit the bank account.”

However, for Liz Barclay, the problem is not confined to small businesses. Big companies also rely on a healthy small business sector to maintain their supply chains. “Until we start getting that message through to bigger businesses, they won’t see that they are shooting themselves in the foot. The next time they need that talent that contributes so much to their business’s success, it will not be there. And it will cost them a lot more to go out and look for new suppliers who can do that job.”

What next?

At Saltare, we believe micro, small and medium-sized business owners deserve to live happy and fulfilled lives. Resolving the issue of late payments will go a long way to improving their situation. To do so, three things need to occur. Buyers need to understand the effect of late payments on small business owners, the government needs to encourage settlement within terms, and companies must implement digital tools to facilitate those payments.

We believe Early Pay is an essential step towards a healthier UK business environment. It is a digital solution that benefits both buyers and suppliers and works towards a stronger, fairer and more robust supply chain. At the same time, it tackles the root cause of small business owners’ biggest challenge – late payments. If we can tackle the late payments problem, we will positively and significantly impact this developing mental health issue.

If you want to learn more about how Early Pay can help your business become an ethical buyer while also bolstering your supply chain, contributing to the wider business environment, and providing small business owners with peace of mind, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Finding the support you need

If you are a small business owner struggling with late payments and require mental health support, there are several places you can seek it.

Anxiety UK

www.anxietyuk.org.uk

03444 775 774 (available Mon to Fri, 9.30 am – 5.30 pm)

CALM

www.thecalmzone.net

0800 58 58 58 (available 5 pm – 12am)

Mind

www.mind.org.uk

0300 123 3393 (available Mon to Fri, 9 am – 6 pm)

Rethink Mental Illness

www.rethink.org

0300 5000 927 (available Mon to Fri, 9.30 am – 4 pm)

Samaritans

www.samaritans.org.uk

Phone: 116 123 (available 24 hours)

SANE

www.sane.org.uk/support

Saltare is delighted to announce it has joined the Good Business Charter (GBC), an accreditation that seeks to raise the bar on business practices for employees, tax, the environment, customers and suppliers.

(September, 2022) Early Payments Fintech, Saltare, has joined the Good Business Charter (GBC) as part of its commitment to best business practices across the UK.

https://www.goodbusinesscharter.com/accredited-organisations-posts/page/60/

Joining enables Saltare to ensure it not only supports its employees through the Good Business Charter but also encourages its own customers to follow similar practices including paying suppliers promptly.

Chairman of the GBC board, Simon Fox said: “The Good Business Charter brings together 10 standards, most of which already exist, but in separate places. We have brought them together to give a coherent overall position for all businesses to aspire to. We believe that the GBC has enormous potential to change business practice for good. We hope that because of its simplicity and cost effectiveness, it will quickly gain support.”

The Good Business Charter commits organisations to the above 10 components.

Ant Persse, CEO of Saltare, says the code helps encourage prompt payments and strengthen supply chain relationships: “The Good Business Charter sets out clear pathways to ensure businesses across the UK respect and support each other and help create a natural incubator for success. Joining them was an important step for us both to demonstrate our own support for businesses and as a way to encourage those who work within our supply chain to do the same.”

The Good Business Charter offers a straightforward accreditation which recognises organisations that prioritise and care for their employees, the environment, customers and suppliers, whilst also paying their taxes in accordance with the law.

For more information on the Good Business Charterplease visit: https://www.goodbusinesscharter.com

Small and medium sized enterprises are the backbone of the UK economy. They are integral to continued economic growth and are a feature of everyday life for the vast majority of UK citizens. The problems they face impact us all. Right now, late payments are one of the biggest issues affecting these businesses. Research from Barclays shows that three in five SMEs are currently owed money from late payments.

Late payments leave many SMEs struggling to maintain healthy cash flow, putting their futures at risk. And a struggling small business sector affects everyone within the supply chain, including large organisations and the UK economy as a whole. It places additional pressure on every aspect of the country’s economy, at a time when many companies could do without it.

The bigger SME picture

At the start of 2021, SMEs accounted for 99.9% of the UK’s business population (GOV). The UK government distinguishes between micro, small and medium businesses in the following way (GOV):

This distribution demonstrates just how dominant SMEs are in the UK commercial landscape. They outnumber any other type of business by a considerable amount and are the principal driving force behind the UK economy. Though they may be the driving force, they’re by no means in the driving seat. Often, smaller businesses are at the mercy of the larger organisations they interact with.

Nowhere is this more evident than the issue of payments. Larger companies typically have the power to dictate payment terms to SMEs. This results in long terms that can impact cash flow and put them under significant pressure. Even worse, some larger companies regularly break the terms of the arrangement and pay late, leaving some small and micro businesses struggling to make ends meet.

However, late payments are not just an issue for smaller businesses. They affect larger companies, too. In this series of blogs, we look at how late payments impact the entire business landscape – from sole traders to multinational corporations. Today, drawing on our recent conversation with Liz Barclay, the Small Business Commissioner, we begin by providing a general overview of the effect late payments have on organisations of all sizes.

State of late payment

In a recent conversation with the Small Business Commissioner, Liz Barclay highlighted how widespread late payments are. “We’re still seeing around 40% of invoices not being paid to terms,” she noted. “15% of those invoices aren’t chased by small businesses because they simply don’t have the resources.”

However, it would be wrong to suggest that this is an entirely new problem. The power imbalance between larger organisations and the SMEs that play vital roles in their supply chains has existed for many years: late payments have caused issues in the past, just as they do now.

“E-commerce and cloud accounting solutions have made a lot of difference over the last 15 years,” Liz Barclay explained. By automating key processes and ensuring there is greater transparency in the payment process, digital technology has ensured average payment terms have gradually decreased.”

However, small businesses still struggle to chase invoices. They do so for a range of reasons. Chief amongst them are a lack of time, money and staff availability. Smaller businesses often operate on slim margins, with little room to manoeuvre. This means they can’t chase payments without impacting other areas of the company. Even when they can do so, there is no guarantee that payment will be made promptly.

Let’s take a closer look at what late payments mean for small and medium sized businesses.

Late payment is a productivity problem

UK SMEs spend 900,000 hours a day chasing and dealing with late payments. This is a remarkable waste of companies’ time and resources and considerably impacts other aspects of the business. Essentially, time spent processing late payments is time not spent on tasks that add value to the business.

Liz Barclay argued convincingly that this makes late payment a productivity issue for small and micro businesses. “It’s time that you’re not putting into planning your business, building your business or thinking about getting new customers,” she said. Repurposing staff to chase late invoices or taking time out of your day to try and organise payment means you cannot focus on those parts of your business that matter most.

In an increasingly competitive business landscape, productivity is key to realising an advantage over your competitors. Small businesses need every spare minute they can muster to stay afloat, maintain momentum and continue growing. Robbing smaller organisations of that time will lead to more firms struggling and fewer surviving.

Uncertainty is the enemy

Long payment terms – where companies arrange a latest payment date that is relatively far down the line – can be problematic. However, they are nowhere near as much of an issue as late payments. This is because late payments introduce an element that no small business can account for – uncertainty.

Long payment terms might not be ideal, but at least they guarantee the small business will receive payment by a specific date. This allows the business owners to plan and mitigate the long terms. Business owners cannot plan for late payments. They do not know when they will receive payment, and they have no way to compensate for, or plan around, the large hole in their finances.

Liz Barclay explained why this is such a significant issue. “Purely economically, small businesses go to the wall if they can’t manage their cash flow. They can’t manage their cash flow if there’s no certainty, and they don’t know when they will get paid. They need to know when the money will hit the bank account.”

Uncertainty doesn’t just make it challenging to plan. It also makes small businesses wary of investing in their future. As Liz Barclay suggested “Small businesses won’t invest in skills, new jobs, training or equipment unless they have certainty”. Why would an SME increase investment in these parts of their business when they don’t know if they will have the cash to pay for them in the future? In this sense, uncertainty stifles innovation and growth, preventing small businesses from fulfilling their potential and damaging the wider business environment.

Supporting a stronger ecosystem

The idea that late payments only impact small businesses is patently false. Though we will look at how late payments also affect larger companies in greater depth in upcoming blog posts, we will touch on the subject here.

Large companies do not operate in isolation. They’re part of a diverse business ecosystem. Big businesses’ supply chains are made up of small businesses, and they depend on them to manufacture, market and distribute their products. While it may seem as though these larger organisations are insulated from the problems of small businesses – they can, after all, replace one SME partner with another – this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Big businesses need to protect their supply chain to insulate them from potential economic problems and to minimise the chance of disruption. When a partner SME goes out of business, it is disruptive. That disruption may be manageable when things are going well and financial forecasts are optimistic. When things aren’t looking quite as good and larger companies are facing other business pressures, that disruption can be highly problematic.

Liz Barclay spoke to us about her perspective on late payments and their impact on the wider business ecosystem. She warned larger businesses that late payments are creating problems and the effects will be felt in the future. “The next time that you need that talent that contributes so much to the success of your business, it’s not going to be there,” she said. “And then it’s going to cost you a lot more to go out and look for new suppliers who can do that job.”

In some respects, recent events made larger organisations realise the importance of a healthy ecosystem to their operations. “The pandemic made many big businesses realise that, if they didn’t nurture and look after their suppliers, they would go to their rivals or be put out of business,” Liz Barclay said. “Until we start getting that message to bigger businesses, they won’t see that they’re shooting themselves in the foot.”

Small business owners are struggling

For small and micro business owners, late payments aren’t just an operational issue. They dramatically impact how they live their lives and support themselves. Liz Barclay recounted a call the office of the Small Business Commissioner received from a business owner who was suffering because they were not paid on time.

“We had one woman who phoned to tell us that she had no money to feed her children over the weekend,” she described. “When the case officer then phoned the bigger company and spoke to the CFO, the CFO admitted that it had never occurred to them that £300 could be so important.”

In many instances, larger businesses are not maliciously denying payment to cause harm. They simply do not recognise that their payments can be the difference between a small business owner being able to put food on the table or not. In some ways, this is understandable. Big businesses deal with much larger sums, operate on a different scale, and in a more bureaucratic environment. In this environment, the human impact of business decisions and actions is less clear.

In the case of the business owner unable to feed her children due to late payment, making the larger organisation aware of the human cost of late payment resulted in action. “The company’s CFO asked the case officer for the small business owner’s personal bank account details, and they paid her directly there and then,” Liz Barclay recounted.

Tackling mental health concerns

The example cited in the previous section highlighted the financial cost of late payments to small business owners. This cost is considerable and clear to see. However, there are more insidious costs that are harder to measure but no less problematic. The most significant is the toll late payments take on small and micro business owners.

“Late payments aren’t a purely economic problem,” Liz Barclay noted. “For small businesses, micro-businesses, freelancers and sole traders, they can cause sleepless nights. And sleepless nights lead to mental health problems. We are increasingly seeing people with mental health problems because they’re being paid late or not being paid within reasonable terms.”

It is easy to forget that late payments can have deeply personal ramifications. On a personal level, employees at larger companies are largely insulated from the repercussions of everyday business processes. Their income is not dependent on the outcome and efficiency of key business processes. Whether or not there are problems, they typically still receive their monthly wage slip.

That’s not true of small business owners. Their personal lives are deeply entangled with their professional lives, and they face an entirely different set of workplace pressures. The uncertainty associated with late payments (discussed earlier in the article) puts tremendous pressure on business owners, which manifests as considerable stress. The emotional toll can be enormous.

Conclusion

As this article demonstrates, late payments significantly impact small businesses and their owners. While the most obvious effect is financial, with smaller companies struggling or going out of business, there are other underlying effects that we take for granted. Late payments prevent small businesses from investing in their organisation, reducing productivity and holding the economy back more generally.

At the same time, late payments have a real and very worrying impact on business owners’ mental health and ability to make ends meet. Cash flow uncertainty puts SMEs in a position where they’re operating on a knife edge and constantly worrying about the future. This is unsustainable, and burnout in small businesses is becoming a genuine concern. 

Of course, late payments also affect larger businesses, most notably by creating insecure supply chains that are open to disruption. However, large companies also benefit from making payments on time. We will examine those benefits in an upcoming blog post soon.

(August, 2022) In a recent podcast, The Small Business Commissioner, Liz Barclay, issued a warning that without confidence in cash flow, the UK’s small and micro businesses would be restricted from investing in new jobs, equipment and training or risk shutting shop.

During the conversation with Saltare CEO, Anthony Persse, Liz Barclay raised the issue of late payments hindering small and micro businesses, because often they’re forced to stretch funds if invoices are delayed or paid late. This has a knock-on effect in cutting budgets for new staff or research and development.

“If we look economically, small businesses are put at risk and can’t manage their cash flow if they don’t have payment certainty or know when payments will be made. This means they either have to stretch their funds or look elsewhere for funding, and this limits their investments not just in business growth but business-as-usual functions.”

Liz Barclay

In addition to the strain put on business owners’ books through late payments, Liz also raised the issue of the mental health challenges business owners face through not having sufficient cash.

Particular areas of focus for Liz are freelancers, sole traders and micro businesses. She believes these individuals and owners are most at risk of struggling with mental health challenges and sleepless nights, due to an unpaid invoice putting their livelihood at risk.

These issues also flow through into the local communities, when small and medium-sized businesses are impacted by late payments, something Saltare is committed to resolving through its Early Pay platform.

Anthony Persse, CEO of Saltare said:

“Chatting to Liz, really brings home how important it is for business leaders and policymakers in the UK to prioritise paying on time. Early payment and the certainty of payment ease cashflow concerns and improves the likelihood of future success and growth. Conversely, poor cashflow and poor payment practices ultimately leads to business failure and insolvency.”

Listen to the full interview between Anthony Persse and Liz Barclay below: