There's a problem in the wider business community that's affecting everyone (and our livelihoods), and it's getting worse every year.
It's a problem that people struggle to feel able to talk about or openly challenge.
And it's a problem that's increasing the risk of pushing us back into recession, and leading to further business closures and job losses than we're already seeing and hearing about in the media.
And it's not red tape or (mental) health - it's money. More specifically, the challenge of late payment: customers who commission us to deliver work and goods for them, and then suddenly get out the big book of excuses when it comes to paying us what was agreed, so that they can hold onto the money that's rightly ours for longer.
It disproportionately hits small businesses and the self employed like me, as we don't have big financial reserves to cash flow the work, or employ finance teams who can chase up the money on our behalf (we have to take time out of earning from other work to do that ourselves). We also can't easily use the courts to chase the money, as that costs more cash and time to pursue, and also risks damaging our public reputation.
Late payment is also stifling the wider economy - most small businesses now don't feel that they can raise the money they need to invest in their growth and maintaining their competitiveness because late payment is causing problems for their cash-flow (which makes it harder to repay any loans), and they're having to take out more time to chase customers, rather than deliver more paying work elsewhere (further reducing their cash in, and profitability). And such declines in economic activity, production, and employment are often cited as causes of recession...
And when the cash runs out for us because we've not been paid the money we're owed - it's game over. Our enterprises fold, and we lose our livelihoods along with anyone we're employing. And for what reason? So that some larger corporate can hold onto the cash (which they already have plenty of) for a little longer.
Sadly it's not just big bad private businesses who are guilty of this. Government and the public sector are amongst amongst the worst offenders for not paying on time; and some of my work with charities and social enterprises has also seen this sector being guilty of not paying when bills fall due as well...
It's currently a £14.9bn problem, with the typical small business owed £11,000 and spending nearly a day a week trying to get the money paid that they're owed.
£14.9bn seems an overwhelming amount that nothing can surely be done about. Government have created a post of late payment commissioner to help change this culture, but they've had little (if any?) impact.
So what can a sole trader like me do about it? Well, I can make a pubic commitment to always and openly paying my suppliers on time (if not early) through being certified as a 'Pay On Time' supporter.
I can constructively challenge customers and clients who start to drag their feet in paying me what they owe me for my efforts on their behalf by using the Late Payment Act legislation (very easy and surprisingly effective!).
And I can do this openly and in a way that hopefully encourages others to start to do the same - and if you're reading this, that that means I'm challenging you to do the same!
Government have shown that they can't fix this problem, but the tools are there for us if we have the conviction, leadership, and resolve to get the job done ourselves.
Who's with me?