Header graphic for print
Banking & Finance Law Report

Signs of Trouble Before Payment Default

Posted in Bank Lending, Bank Litigation, Bankruptcy, Collection and Foreclosure, Commercial Lending, Commercial Loans and Leases

This article is Part Two in a seven-part series on how to structure sales and what to do when your customer fails to pay. You can find Part One of this series here: Structuring Sales to Ensure Payment. Please subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the box on the left, or check back weekly for additional articles in the series. 

With the recent economic slowdown in many sectors and the parade of corrupt corporate executives on the evening news, corporate managers are more sensitive than ever to signs of troubled business practices and how those practices affect outstanding receivables.  Many distressed businesses display early warning signs of impending trouble, including some or all of the following:

  • Lack of a sound business plan- The company may not have a plan or may have expanded past the vision of it original business plan.
  • Ineffective management style- The management of a small company that has experienced rapid growth may not be able to delegate authority effectively. 
  • Poor lender/vendor relationships- The company may not respond quickly or fully to its vendor’s request for financial information or may actively hide information from its vendors.
  • Change in market conditions- The market for the company’s product may have changed, leaving the company with a shrinking market share and lower sales. The company’s technology or marketing may be obsolete to compete in the current marketplace (remember 8-track tapes?).
  • Over-diversification of products- The company may enter non-traditional markets too quickly in an effort to increase flagging sales but without the necessary resources or knowledge to compete successfully in the new market.
  • Geographic expansion- The company expands its footprint too quickly, straining managerial and financial resources. These signs should alert the vendor that the company may be a candidate for default on existing obligations.  The prudent vendor should heed these signs and take immediate action to protect its interests in the event the company defaults on its obligations or seeks protection from its creditors under the Bankruptcy Code.  Consider shortening payment terms, going to credit card payment or cash on delivery, a consignment sale format or taking a security interest in the customer’s assets of obtaining a guaranty from a financially reliable insider.