Commercial Debt Collection

How should my company go about recovering its debts?

It is estimated that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) wrote off a total of £5.8bn of debt in the last financial year. 

The Reasons given for the write-offs included:

  • not wanting to ruin customer relationships, 
  • being unclear about the proper channels for pursuing payment of money owed.

Proactive early stages 

My experience is that customer relationships are not necessarily damaged providing both parties have agreed details upfront. Terms and conditions should be agreed between the parties at the outset of the working relationship with signed copies being retained by both sides. 

The terms and conditions should clearly state the agreed payment terms and the consequence of late payment including but not limited to:

  • the suspension of credit terms and/or supplies
  • recovery of statutory costs and late payment interest
  • possible legal action

Correct procedures should be in place for each transaction. 

Including: 

  • a purchase order for every sale, 
  • issuing invoices on a prompt and timely basis. 

Invoices should specify what purchase order they relate and the relevant payment terms and method of acceptable payment.

Cash and cash flow is the lifeblood to any successful business and all businesses should be proactive in collecting debts with good positive credit control housekeeping in place by sending payment reminders and chasing by telephone and/or email keeping a full record of any conversations. This can help to highlight any customer issues or queries concerning the outstanding invoices and reduce the likelihood of late payment. 

Collecting overdue debts  

At some stage during its life all businesses will come across late and bad payers. Chasing overdue debts requires commitment; it is all too easy to get on with the day to day running of your business and overlook the late and bad payers. 

It is paramount that proper procedures are in place to high light late and bad payers to enable prompt action in the process of recovering the payment of an unpaid debt.

The approach and tone of what steps you take to recover the outstanding payments will almost certainly be influenced by the client relationship and the size of the debt. 

At Athena Debt Recovery we always base every collection on its own merits and always give concise, proactive and practical advice on how you should look to proceed with recovering a bad debt. 

We specialise in B2B recoveries and using us can ensure that a positive outcome can be achieved in collecting debts, with the majority of debts being paid in full, or at least payment plans being agreed, without the need of any formal legal action being taken.

Athena Debt Recovery give full comprehensive advise and assistance in taking formal recovery steps where outstanding debts remain unpaid

Such steps can include:

  • Court proceedings, 
  • Enforcement of Court Judgments
  • Insolvency Proceedings such as Statutory Demands, Winding Up and Bankruptcy Petitions

All these should be in your armoury when seeking to recover money due, and you should not be afraid to use them. 

You should only write off debt when you are sure that there is no prospect of collection, ie that your customer is insolvent. 

Acting promptly and quickly can increase the collection rate and reduce your risk to bad debt.

How Athena Debt Recovery Can Help

Athena Debt Recovery (ADR) is the dedicated debt recovery department of Athena Solicitors LLP. The team at ADR have over 80 years combined experience in the corporate debt recovery field and bring with them a wealth of knowledge and expertise in debt recovery steps to aid your business.

At Athena Debt Recovery we provide a considered approach to speed up debt recovery collections whilst minimising customer conflict and reducing the risk to your business.  

Our service is tailored to match the individual needs of your business and we pride ourselves in offering bespoke, cost effective solutions to your debt recovery needs – from simply chasing late payers to legal proceedings including all county court and insolvency processes.  

We are totally dedicated to helping our clients improve cash flow and increase the profitability of their businesses and we use the latest in Debt Recovery software enabling us to process both prelegal and legal collections promptly and efficiently.

About the author

Iain Bould

Senior litigation executive and manager

Iain is a senior litigation executive and manager of Athena Debt Recovery which is part of the firm’s commercial litigation department supervised by our head of commercial litigation partner Stephen Boyd.

Iain has over 25 years experience in Commercial Debt Recovery having worked in both Private Practice and Industry and has extensive experience working across all industry sectors and has a particular expertise in working with Insolvency Practitioners in advising and recovering outstanding insolvent company ledgers.

Iain brings a pragmatic and commercial approach to recovering debts.

Contact us for a free consultation

If you need any advice or further information regarding this article, please contact us.  

As discussed above we offer a free initial consultation and if clients have a viable claim, we offer a variety of retainer options including no win – no fee arrangements.  Every case or potential case will be assessed, on its own merits.

If you have found this article interesting and would like to learn more about how Athena Law can help you please feel free to contact the writer, Iain Bould, at iain.bould@athenadr.co.uk or via the contact page on the website.

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