Small businesses often have issues with aged accounts receivable (AR). Outstanding client debts can cut into cash flow and profits and they divert your attention away from more productive activities. Farriers may find this advice from the veterinary industry helpful, as this is a common issue in their practices.

Multiple practices have transitioned from invoicing to payment at time of service. One practice, Steele Equine Veterinary Services & Performance Horse Center in Zolfo Springs, Fla., which until recently offered clients the option to pay at time of service or be invoiced. Practice growth and a facility expansion prompted practice co-founder Dr. Liz Steele to take a closer look at her company’s finances. She was startled by what she discovered.

“I almost fainted when I realized our AR over 30 days past due was $65,000, and this was the average normal the deeper I dug,” she recalls in an American Association of Equine Practitioners report on the topic. “I sweated out work that I had not been paid for, that was enough for me to get a little mad at myself and say, ‘If you can walk in the feed store and know you must pay before you walk out, then there is no reason you should expect to come to the vet and pay them later when you feel like it.’”

Steele started a policy where every client kept a credit card on file with payment due at time of service. She permits two large active clients to accumulate 30 days’ worth of charges, but runs their card at each 30-day mark. The policy shift has reduced her client owed debts to zero with little impact on her client list.

“Clients expect to pay at the time of service,” says Steele. “On the rare occasion that someone refuses to put a card on file, we kindly ask them to go elsewhere for services. It has cut out all of our headaches and saved a lot of time. I would say we lost less than five clients, but these are the clients that drain your energy anyways.”

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