New research from GoCardless, a global fintech in account-to-account payments, has revealed that the stigma attached to talking about money has left British small businesses vastly under- and unpaid. The findings indicate 29% of SME leaders feel uncomfortable asking customers for payment and nearly three-quarters (73%) are willing to forgo up to 10% of their annual turnover to avoid an awkward money conversation.
However, small business leaders recognise that ‘money muteness’ places a ceiling on their success: 73% agree that failing to talk about money openly would prevent their company from reaching its full potential. Indeed, SME decision makers are all too aware of what they could gain if they collected their receivables on time: 20% say they would have more time to think about their long-term strategy and growing their company, while 18% would invest in other parts of their business, such as in marketing or new software.
Female-led SMEs lose out most
Female business leaders are disproportionately affected by this taboo topic, with 32% indicating they feel awkward talking about money, compared to only 22% of male leaders. When dealing with customers over half (54%) of women say it’s because they don’t want to be seen as rude, in contrast to 40% of men.
GoCardless has partnered with Emma Gannon, award-winning author of The Multi-Hyphen Method and host of careers podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, to raise awareness of the issue and get small businesses talking more openly about money.
Gannon said: “Money is an emotional topic as it is, but add in the problem of late payments and it’s even more stressful. Chasing payments causes a huge expenditure of emotional and mental energy and has affected almost every single freelancer I know. Research tells us women worry more about being seen as rude or could sometimes feel intimidated, which means they’re at a greater disadvantage. Small business owners and solopreneurs deserve more respect, and they deserve to be able to do their work without having another job on top. Late payments are a massive problem, and it is a scandal how normalised they’ve become. I’m really excited to be working with GoCardless to raise awareness of this problem, but more importantly, to offer solutions.”
It’s not all bad news
Although many small business leaders dodge discussions about ‘the m-word’, it is often the consumer who is left red-faced: When informed about a late or failed payment, 42% of people feel embarrassed, 28% feel apologetic and 22% are grateful to have the opportunity to resolve it.
Technology has the potential to minimise awkwardness on both sides. 62% of consumers agree they would feel more comfortable getting chased for a late or failed payment by an automated message, for instance on email or text, rather than a call or notice from a human being.
As for SMEs, 41% of business owners report they are interested in technologies such as machine learning or artificial intelligence to reduce the rate of failed payments. Almost half (45%) say they would be open to introducing technology which increases the speed of getting paid, including those that pull payments when they’re due, such as Bacs direct debit.
Pranav Sood, VP Small Business at GoCardless, said: “You can’t fix a problem if you don’t talk about it. Getting paid is one of the biggest problems that SMEs face and an inability to talk about it is holding too many businesses back. At GoCardless, we are committed to breaking this taboo and tackling ‘money muteness’. The first step is to recognise that it’s normal to feel awkward when talking about money. But that isn’t enough – to solve this problem for good, SMEs will need to adopt technology and processes that automate collection and eliminate late and failed payments.”