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The daily struggle for customer limits

29.05.2019
Ulrich Spranger
Ulrich Spranger
A recurring battle for us is the struggle for sufficient credit for our dealers. We usually find a solution because we not only rely on credit insurers, but often also set our own limits. We frequently significantly increase the limits of credit insurers at our own risk.

If that does not work, we often find a creative solution, for example, the reseller does not have enough limit, but a great end customer does. While we do not do business with end users, we do charge the end user the agreed price at the request of the dealer, and then pay the margin to the dealer. True, he dealer will not have turnover in the books, but full profit and he loses the risk.

If turnover really needs to be in the books, it can also be arranged so that the end user pays us in trust. Yes, such a conversation with an end customer is dumb, but do not worry. If I have a great software solution, but am just a small company, then a large well-known end customer has understanding for such a solution. They are not hearing that for the first time.

Credit limits are important to us all, like the air we breathe. Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs do not even think about how to improve their creditworthiness. And that annoys me.

This mainly affects small companies that suddenly get a large order, and then quickly need a credit limit of 500,000 euros, although only a mere 20,000 euros of their business is capital stock. Sometimes one wonders why we should take more risk than the entrepreneurs themselves.

I often hear, »My end customer is the billionaire company John Q Public Inc., so they will definitely pay and then Jarltech will get its money.« Maybe. But if my dealer messes up or the end customer claims that the solution does not work as it should - than John Q Public Inc. simply does not pay. If the dealer has tight finances then things can quickly go bad, especially if you cannot wait three years for a Supreme Court decision with 100 expert opinions.

Perhaps it will help one or the other to hear how I, 25 years ago, unfortunately without any capital, started to build up and maintain the creditworthiness of Jarltech.

Each new balance sheet was sent to the well-known credit insurers and credit bureaus on the day of publication, fully transparent and with commentary. My banks, or as it was at the beginning only one, additionally received a monthly report with order numbers, plus some information about what kept us busy. Although no one had asked for it. This builds trust.

If you do not want to publicize numbers, you usually have something to hide. For the sentence »I do not give out any numbers, otherwise the competition will get them«, there is only one translation, which reads: »The numbers are too bad to show.«

Even those who have not studied business administration (to this day I have not seen a university from the inside) must understand what equity ratio is. And if this is only important on the balance sheet date, then I have to manage this key figure and not have an unusually high inventory on this day or drive a maximum credit line utilization, which unnecessarily drives up the total assets and screws up the debt ratio. Banks and insurers have their rating systems, even if they sometimes don’t really fit.

What we also do: if we have profit carried forward in the company, which I cannot or do not want to distribute to myself anyway, then I can occasionally adjust the capital stock to the size of my company from the company’s own funds. We just did it again in May. It just looks better and the bank knows that it is more difficult for the owner to run away with the money.

Another classic mistake is a reorganization. »We are so successful, we have just opened a new company especially for this area«. Yes, only then it is completely new and without any credit history, so for the time being it is not creditworthy. Unless a parent company is liable for it, in a way that everyone can see in the commercial register.

For our decisions at our own risk, it is true that the customer who puffs up the most (especially with regard to his million dollar limit with our competitors) usually walks on the sharpest razor blade. If you look at Google Earth for the credit decision and find only a garden shed at the address instead of the company headquarters shown on the website, then the case is quickly clear ...

However, I must also say that some credit insurers make funny decisions. Because there are not so many of them anymore, their power is simply very great. If an insurer suddenly sees an increased lump sum risk for an entire country or an entire industry, then one or the other innocent party may actually be affected.

As mentioned at the beginning, we almost always find a good and quick solution. Credit risks are part of a distributor's core business. But, we are not a venture capitalist. If a customer pays well, we are there quickly, at our own risk. And I am pleased that we are not bound by any ratings and are sometimes also allowed to make a gut decision, because people in our industry know each other.
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