“Cash flow is key for small business owners,” explains Hellewell, whose Ovenu business was founded in 1994 and operates via a network of franchisees across the UK. “Customers who demonstrate a blatant disregard for a service provider – by cancelling at the last minute or by missing an appointment completely – can have a devastating and potentially fatal effect on a business. “A typical Ovenu booking costs around £75, so if each of my franchisees experienced just one last-minute cancellation per quarter, then that could mean losses of around £30,000 a year.” A national campaign to protect small businesses from disputes and so-called “rogue customers” was launched last year. The website, www.roguecustomer.com, is fighting for changes in the law to ensure that traders are protected. The site claims to have received reports of outstanding customer debts in excess of £3,850,000. But Hellewell says it’s not enough: “The issue of formal cancellation policies remains a murky one and, as someone who has approached a number of government agencies for advice and guidance on tackling this, I have found little support exists. “What continues to amaze me is how tradesmen providing a quality service continue to be regarded as almost secondary to many other ‘professionals’. But why should it be any different for a tradesman?”
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