In an age of uncertainty, with cash flow tight and credit unavailable or very limited for many small businesses, they face a struggle for survival. Making the wrong call even just once can have catastrophic consequences, so it has never been more important than to adopt a common sense, back to basics approach when dealing with a new supplier or customer.
Under English law, redress is very limited when dealing with a limited company entity. Whilst limited liability is a lynchpin of capitalism, enabling risk taking and entrepreneurialism, it also enables reckless or unscrupulous individuals to play the system, so it’s vital to do your homework.
Credit reports are a useful tool, but they don’t always give the full picture and are often somewhat out of date and can only provide a snapshot based on what is publicly available data. To obtain a more rounded view on possible risk issues, other factors come into play, some of which include :-
- Do directors of the limited company have multiple other directorships? – This may be an indicator of a successful businessperson with diverse business interests, but it also may indicate a cavalier approach to business and a lack of focus or commitment to the company your business may be considering doing business with
- Is the company a new company? – This will tie in with credit reports. Without a trading history or track record, dealing with a new company must be considered more risky, especially as a high proportion of newer businesses fail. A failed business may end up owing your business money which you may well not recover as an unsecured creditor
- Charges over the company assets – Secured creditors will be paid out before unsecured creditors. Any security existing over the potential supplier or customer is a factor to be considered and can be investigated with a full company search or may be included in a credit check.
- Company owned by foreign shareholders or by another company – Whilst shareholders do not generally run a company, the directors do, they own it, and a foreign owned company may be considered a higher risk than where the owners are UK based.
- Directors not UK based – There is no requirement for directors of an English company to be based here, and the company is a separate legal entity to the directors or shareholders, but if there is fraud or other underhand dealings where the directors may be held personally liable and this impacts on you as a supplier or customer, risk is increased if the directors are not UK based, and their day to day running of the company, if not based here, may be questionable. They may even be mere nominees or proxies with no real interest or commitment to the company, which is not a positive sign.
- Late accounts – Self explanatory and a very significant risk factor
- No personal addresses associated with company – Can be a way of an unscrupulous director hiding behind a business address only.
- No website – Most businesses now have a website, it may be a risk factor of the business, especially if it holds itself out as successful, does not have one.
- Not registered for vat – Indicates a low turnover and higher potential risk.
The above advice for business comes from Gannons Solicitors, providers of a range of specialist legal services for business.