Seven Ways Contractors Can Get Paid Faster
Wouldn’t it be great if you always had the ability to pay your bills on time?
Even better if you could pay them early when a discount is offered for doing so?
To improve cash flow at your construction business consider these seven strategies to help you collect project related payments from your customers much faster.
First, during the sales process, discuss upfront in a businesslike manner your desire to finance the project with their money. Let them know your cost of doing business, and therefore the cost of their project, will be much higher if you have to finance the job using your business’ line of credit rather than their money to pay for their project as it progresses.
When creating a project’s payment schedule use project milestones to determine when payments will become due. If when doing your estimate you list your tasks and related costs for each task in critical path order, you can then add up the marked up cost of each milestone’s tasks to make sure the amount collected for each payment will adequately finance each phase of the project. Then, add a little extra money to create a cushion of safety (front loading).
When writing up those payment schedules make payments due for example “When ready to start drywall” rather than “At start of drywall”. This way you will have the money you need before you start a phase to pay for that phase. By using this wording, if you are having problems, you can delay returning to the project if your customer doesn’t give you the money when it’s due. Be sure to explain how this works to your customers while they are still prospects and before they sign your agreement!
Make it company policy (in your contract) and indicate in your payment schedule that the final payment is due at substantial completion. This is the point at which the project can be used for its intended purpose. So even if you are waiting on the customer to provide the kitchen cabinet door pulls as the last item to wrap things up, you can still call the project substantially complete, invoice your customer for the balance due and expect the final payment.
Also make it company policy that your contractor’s warranty starts at substantial completion of the project. Clarify however that no warranty work will be completed until the final project balance has been paid in full.
Make sure you bill your clients as soon as the job is substantially complete. Experienced contractors have learned that if you take two weeks to bill your customers; they will assume they have at least two more weeks to pay you.
In your contract, and on your invoices, let customers know when interest charges will start on late payments. If for example they have a 30 day grace period to make payment on a final invoice, and they make their payment late, will the interest due start at the 30 day mark, or start back on the original date of the invoice? If interest will start at the date of invoicing customers will be more likely to pay within the 30 days grace period. Again, be sure to explain how this works to your customers while they are still prospects and before they sign your agreement!
Being proactive will help contractors collect project payments on time
For some business owners dealing with and or talking about money with clients and prospects is scary. When I discuss this subject with them many tell me they don’t want to alienate their customers. This certainly can be a valid concern. However, if you discuss your policies related to making progress and final payments before you let them sign your contract, and you do it in a professional manner and tone, most good customers will toe the line. There is definitely a difference between being aggressive versus being firm and sincere with purpose. After all, the best results for the contractor as well as the homeowner come when there is a mutually beneficial relationship.