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Getting paid is a pain for Australia and New Zealand’s small businesses. It’s time for a change.

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Last editedMay 20243 min read

Although being in business is about getting paid, it’s almost certainly not the reason most business owners got into business in the first place.

Invoicing, chasing late payments, reconciliations? That’s not what gets entrepreneurs out of bed in the morning. So it’s frustrating to see that this is exactly the kind of thing that too many SMBs in Australia and New Zealand are spending too much time (and money) doing.

Take the findings of the Xero Small Business Index, for example: late payments to small businesses in Australia and New Zealand were made 6.3 days and 6.2 days late respectively in the quarter ending December 2023.

This is not a small-deal. These delays have a major impact on both businesses and the stress levels of the people running them. Those that received the majority (60-80%) of their payments late experienced 17% more ‘cash flow crunches’ (where cash outflows exceed inflows) compared with those that generally get paid on time.

The main problem is the way businesses invoice

The difficulty stems from the fact that small businesses that invoice customers in Australia and New Zealand tend to do one of two things. Neither of which are ideal.

The first approach is manually generating and emailing them out invoices with their bank details on the bottom or instructions for paying by card. A buyer-initiated payment like this leaves businesses with little control or visibility over how and, critically, when they get paid.

The second is submitting a massive spreadsheet export to their bank to initiate a Direct Debit payment run. Although this offers a higher level of control, it’s far from perfect. Putting together that spreadsheet is a labour-intensive and a nerve-wracking experience: a misplaced decimal point might mean a million-dollar mistake. It can also lead to unpredictable billing dates for customers, increasing the risk of funds being unavailable.

And both approaches offer poor or non-existent integration with billing and accounting systems, which adds up to even more admin.

Automation is the answer

To cut out this admin and inject some much needed control, visibility and predictability into their payments, small businesses could instead use digital payment offerings to invoice, collect payments and reconcile their accounts in a single flow.

But every small business is different, and the payment pains we’ve been discussing will be felt to varying degrees and at different times. So how do you know if and where you need to make a change?

That’s where Stop the chase – The small business buyers’ guide to automated payment collection from GoCardless comes in.

The guide looks to demystify payment collection automation by providing some practical advice for firms looking to take the pain out of payments. And the first step is to ask yourself four key questions about your current payment processes:

What is your current state of overdue debt?

Money that’s locked away in receivables impacts cash flow and cash flow forecasting. Worse, as Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) creeps up, so too does your exposure to risk and bad debt. By automating your invoicing, payment collection, and related processes you can smooth out any frictions that delay the collection and clearing of funds.

What does your accounts receivable process look like?

By adopting solutions and processes that increase control, visibility and integration in Accounts Receivable, you can put a stop to the cascading inefficiencies that eat up your precious time. Including waving goodbye to the end-of-month grind to reconcile payments.

Are payments enhancing or harming your customer experience?

Consumers are increasingly used to accessing products and services with just a tap or a swipe. So making it harder than it should be for customers to pay you is a killer for the customer experience, and increases the risk of churn.

What is your total cost of payments?

The cost of payments is more than the direct cost of accepting them, such as transaction fees (which can be as high as 4% for cards). There’s the cost of fraud, for example. And there’s also the payment failure rate, which for two-thirds of B2B and B2C firms, the cost of recovery of failed payments is more than 11% of the average payment size.

Comprehensive advice, from idea to decision time

From our conversations with small business owners, it’s clear they have a good idea that something has to change with their payments.

If that sounds like you too, the questions outlined here and covered in detail in the full buyers’ guide, are designed to help you better understand how and where payments are causing you unnecessary pain. The guide also provides a series of conversation starters with which to engage prospective payment partners, and pointers on conducting a cost-benefit analysis when it comes to decision time.

Or, to put it another way, it’s your roadmap to spending less time on admin and more time doing what you do best — which is whatever you got into business for in the first place.

Learn more: read Stop the chase – The small business buyers’ guide to automated payment collection.

Over 85,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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