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Most solution providers – 51 percent – believe their company’s access to credit is the same as it was a year ago, an encouraging result amidst a sea of negative economic news.

According to the Channel Insider 2009 Market Pulse survey, only 22 percent of solution providers thought their firm’s access to credit was poorer than it was now versus a year ago. That same group believes their access to credit over the next 12 months will improve further.

But experiences in the field vary dramatically.

"This is where I have noticed the largest change to date," says M.J. Shoer, president of Jenaly Technology Group in Portsmouth, N.H. "Everyone is pulling in their terms. You have to maintain your payment history very carefully. Banks are being banks. When times are good, they are very happy to lend you money. When times are like this, they don’t want to part with a dime. It’s very frustrating and limiting to small businesses like us."

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Shoer notes that Jenaly has had a credit line canceled and converted into a term note, in spite of the fact that they’d done business the lending bank for years and had never had a payment issue with them.

"Without even talking to us, they converted our credit line to a term note," Shoer says. "The reasoning was that in this economic climate, we no longer met their risk criteria, despite being an excellent customer with more than enough deposits to cover our liabilities.

"That is definitely frustrating and a concern because if this has happened to us, it is happening to others and will severely impact some businesses ability to stay in business and weather these times," he adds. "Fortunately for us, this has not had a negative impact on our business, but the potential for it to have had such an effect was certainly there."

On the other side, Darrel Raynor, managing director of Data Analysis & Results, says that while vendors and distributors have been making noises about being tighter on credit "you grumble and they change their mind again."

For big customers, he says, "vendors are falling over themselves to offer credit terms now. More so than before. But I haven’t tried to put anything through for a startup. It would cost me $5,000 to get $4,000 worth of credit."

Raynor also notes that interest has dropped substantially in the credit offers he has received from vendors.

"They want to move product, especially hardware," he says. If you want to buy a server, you can get it the next day for 90 day credit terms. I’m not even sure they are doing credit checks right now. You get approval in 2 or 3 minutes."

To stem any potential issues at his company, which is self-financed like most solution providers are, Ken West, president of Lighthouse Networks has implemented a small change.

"If I do sell a large project, I’m requiring more money up front than I used to before I order the equipment," West says. "My biggest concern is with clients paying on time. I’ve got a handful that will drift to 60 days now and one or two that will drift to 90 days."

He’s not the only one who says customers are pushing out payments.

"We have seen some CFO nitpicking on invoices," says Raynor. "They are finding tiny little mistakes, and invoices are being reviewed at a higher level or with much higher scrutiny."