Conference seminars spell out dangers of bad business.

The second day of THE Conference featured focussed business seminars covering subjects from credit control to online trading.

Merchants are losing large sums of money by neglecting their credit control systems, according to BMF management tutor Ian Moody.

During his seminar session at the Conference today, Moody explained that most credit controllers don’t know the importance of their job and that many feel demotivated because of it. He also explained that many do not understand basic business.

Moody went on to tell delegates that many merchants aren’t using legislation such as the Late Payments Act 1998 to chase difficult customers.

“The Late Payments Act 1998 is hardly used at all, only 15% of SMEs use it,” he said. “One of the reasons they don’t use it is because it’s very difficult to implement. After a 2002 amendment the act was relevant to all businesses but it still did not pick up. It allows you to say ‘if you don’t pay me on time I’ll charge you interest on the original price’.”

Moody explained that it would be wise to put the late payments act in the terms of conditions of customer contracts and to add it to existing contracts, they would have to be re-drafted and signed: “I would always recommend you put it into your terms and conditions. It’s a simple statement you need to make, you don’t have to quote the Act extensively.”

At the other business sessions, Jamie Dixon of G-Forces showed merchants how easy it was to set up a transactional website by creating one for Simon Blaxill there and then. The Construction Product Association’s John Tebbitt looked at the zero carbon housing targets and the questions merchants can expect to hear from their customers in the near future.

“The Code for Sustainable Homes covers water use, for example, which will really drive water efficient products,” he said. If you sell plumbing products, people are going to come in and ask you; ‘What’s the flow rate of that shower? What about the flow rate of these taps? What’s the water capacity of that bath?’ If you don’t know you will lose that business.”

He explained that the main area in which there will be a lot of interest will be improvements of the existing stock and that rather than expensive renewable technologies, simple and relatively cheap jobs such as cavity wall and roof insulation will do a lot to improve the carbon rating of a house. He also added however, that many weren’t doing it because of the inertia and hassle they believe it would cause.

Dixon encouraged merchants to take steps to improve this by making things clearer for their customers and streamlining their service when it comes to eco products. He suggested that selling products as bronze, silver or gold upgrade packages would make a big difference. He asked delegates to think about whether they wanted a part of the market or not and if they did, to make sure they took the right steps to improve their offering accordingly.

“It’s going to happen and the question is whether it’s going to happen with you or without you…you can use industry KPIs to see how well you are doing compared to everyone else, it would be really useful, as even though your perception is that you are ahead of the game, it may turn out you have some catching up to do.”

THE Conference is an all-industry event, owned and organised by BMF, BMJ, NMBS and Unimer.

Editor’s blog, click here

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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