9 Jan 2019

January worst time for small business owners to get paid

4:09 pm on 9 January 2019

Small businesses can have a tough time in January, as most of the country goes on holiday and don't pay their bills until they get back from the summer break.

Generic business invoice shot

Data from the accounting software company Xero shows that year-on-year, now is the worst time for small business owners getting paid. Photo: 123RF

Data from the accounting software company Xero shows that year-on-year, now is the worst time for small business owners getting paid.

Last January invoices were paid 12 days late, 62 percent of invoices were overdue and only 38 percent of small businesses were cashflow-positive.

Xero New Zealand managing director Craig Hudson told Summer Report that part of the problem is that it's a hangover from having a shorter month in December.

"So [businesses] try and rush through as much work as you possibly can in the lead up to Christmas, and here in New Zealand we kind of shut down for pretty much all of January.

"So we've got that three weeks and then try and get invoices out in time, and if you don't get them out on time, send them in very late in December, nobody's there to be able to pay those invoices.

"January is always the worst month for cashflow-positive businesses in New Zealand, it's had a massive dip to go down to around 38 percent of all businesses last January were cashflow positive which is just so crazy low.

Mr Hudson said at its peak in the year, the number of cashflow-positive businesses in New Zealand is around 55 percent, but it takes a long time after the summer break to reach it.

"The hangover goes for much longer because January is messy because we're on holiday, February is a short month plus we've got stat holidays, March we have Easter as well so it's not until April when we have a full working month to be able to get back into the cadence of the year.

Mr Hudson said the pressure of getting back on track takes it's toll on business operators.

"It's incredibly stressful this time of year for small business, it's also the highest death rate of small business, happens in January/February.

"There'll be a large number of small businesses that are currently sitting, as we are here in January, with them thinking that they're holiday spike or Christmas shopping might get them through so there's a lot of people sweating on a really, really good summer period.

"Also getting paid, the invoices that they've got out are going to get pushed out 12 days... late, like this time last year, that has a massive impact on being able to pay your outgoings.

"It's one of the things with small business, normally your committed expenses stay the same month by month, so your revenue is ridiculously low if you're not in retail or tourism or anything to do with people going to a beach somewhere, so your revenue drops right down but your operating expenses stay high so it's trying to get that balance right and it's such a hard time of year for businesses to survive.

While it is a strain for some businesses, Mr Hudson said there are a few ways they can mitigate the lack of cashflow.

"Being on top of your invoicing is number one - so making sure that you're using a digital platform to be able to send them out as soon as the job is done.

"Also potentially looking at getting prepayment from invoices as well to make sure that the cash is still coming in, even in part, is a good idea."