How to Develop a Credit Policy

How to Develop a Credit PolicyA credit policy explains how a company will manage lines of credit for client accounts and what procedures to follow for severely outstanding invoices. It helps a business promote a robust foundation for its working capital level.

Defining a Credit Policy

Unlike personal credit scores, business scores range from 0 to 100; the scores from the FICO Small Business Scoring Service range from 0 to 300. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a first step to establishing business credit is to sign up for a Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number for each business location.

There are three components to a company’s credit policy. First, develop an effective system of following up on past-due invoices. Second, define when, how much, and the terms of credit extended to customers. Third, establish how the business underwrites a client’s creditworthiness and put guidelines in place to determine when to increase or decrease lines of credit for clients.

Memorializing a Company’s Credit Policy for External and Internal Uses

The reason why it’s so important to have a credit policy in writing is because 6 in 10 workers in large American business workplaces have found it challenging to get information from their fellow co-workers, according to a report by YouGov and Panopto. This same report found that processes that are not documented result in employees wasting an average of 5.3 hours/week either looking for the right person or waiting for a response.

Internally, it enables employees to understand the policy inside and out, creating more efficient workers. Externally, it sets clear ground rules and reduces the likelihood of mismatched customer expectations.

Considerations Before Writing Out a Credit Policy

Depending on the interest rate environment, clients may have a hard time obtaining financing. If they are able to obtain financing in a high-interest rate environment, it will come with a higher cost for the customer. The business may need to have more stringent policies.

Terms of Sale May Not be One-Size-Fits-All

It is imperative to explain how payment terms work before the company engages with clients. Be it net 15, 30, or 60 days, etc., consider how payment timeframes may incentivize pre-payment or early payment discounts. From there, determine when and how the company takes action to deem when payment is “delinquent,” and when it’s considered uncollectable and finally written off and sold to a debt collector.

Depending on the size/revenue/etc. of the company writing the policy, it is not ideal to treat smaller companies the same as larger/more established companies. For example, giving a company a net 45 term versus a net 30 or net 15 has two available outcomes.

Larger companies may be able to pay faster, but if they are given more time to pay, it can negatively impact the receiving company’s cash flow. And while giving small companies similar terms can create more goodwill, it also can cause a company to take it for granted. This presents the potential to never receive payment for outstanding invoices if the small business faces bankruptcy. Similarly, depending on the type of business and/or sector it’s in, risk should be rated appropriately.

Determine Roles/Responsibilities

Ensure each department and person within each department has a defined role within the credit approval process. The sales department can help craft payment terms to reduce late payments and maximize sales. The credit department can handle reviewing to extend, lower, and increase credit limits. The accounts receivable (AR) department should follow up on late invoices, collect payments, and record incoming payments.    

While there’s no boilerplate form for a business’ credit policy, having a policy in place will help a business navigate its internal and external needs more effectively.

Sources

eBook: Valuing Workplace Knowledge

https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/establish-business-credit


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