Knowing Your Customer

Ronda Jackson, Director Jacksons CRS

Knowing your Customer - Six Top Tips

1. Check out the exact name and legal status of the business you’re supplying. If it’s a sole trader or partnership, the proprietor or partners are personally liable so make sure you have their full details. Businesses can disappear much more quickly and easily than individuals!

For limited companies you can obtain information and documents at :

2. Check if the business is a signatory to the Prompt Payment Code. If so, they have committed to the Code principles and, if they don’t pay promptly, you can raise a challenge and the Chartered Institute of Credit Management will intervene on your behalf.

Their Prompt Payment Code entry may also give information about how they pay and what you need to do to ensure you are paid promptly.

If it’s a large company (as defined by the Companies Act) it has to report its payment performance on the government ‘Business payment practices and performance’ website:

3. Don’t be afraid to push for all the information you need – if you can’t get it now, it will be far more difficult later.

4. Watch out for cultivated ‘friendly’ references that the potential customer gives you. Referees that you choose are far more effective.

5. Invest in credit reference information – it could save you a bad debt.

6. Set some rules that you (and all your employees) always follow and don’t be tempted to break them, even if you’re put under pressure to supply urgently.


  •  Do you know the exact name and trading style of the business? The people or company that own the business, and are liable for any debts, may not be the same as the name under which the business trades. Types of business include, amongst others, limited companies, partnerships and sole proprietors.
  •  If it’s not a limited company do you know the name (s) and personal address (es) of the proprietor or partners
  •  Have you seen headed paper or documentation that verifies this information?
  •  Have you used a credit reference agency to check their details and credit status?
  •  Does the information support the amount of credit they’ll need? There are many sources of information, the most common and readily available being credit agency reports and references.
  •  Have you talked to other suppliers of the business to obtain references?
  • Do the details on the order match those you were given earlier? If they were previously dealing with your competitor, are you happy about their reasons for coming to you?
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