Many startups at one point or another get into situations where they need to stretch vendor payments a bit to handle cash flow issues. We're in one of those situations right now and I'm trying to figure out the best way to deal with the situation. Obviously every vendor is different and some have yet to complain about outstanding money that we owe them while at least one is threatening legal action and sending our outstanding amount to collections.
Has anyone here dealt with this and were there any lessons learned? I don't like not paying people on time (out of principle) but on the other hand, we're in a position where if we don't there's some concern whether we'll be able to stay in business or not.
The most important thing you can do is communicate your situation to them. Give them a heads up if you will have issues paying them. Don't wait till the last minute or hide from their phone calls. Most vendors will work with you to resolve any issues as long as you are open and honest with them.
You do have to be sincere in your desire to pay them eventually. Partial payments also work since when they sell the debt to collection, they get 10's of cents on the dollar. If you offer to give them a partial payment now, that can be a lot more than what they will get from collection companies.
Again, be honest about your situation, assure them you want to pay them and offer, if you can, a partial payment to show them you are serious making stuff work.
Jarie is right.
Also you can offer a payment plan. You'll pay in full, just over N months, $D per month. It's better for them to get money eventually than not at all or through an agency (which costs them both time and money).