Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Collecting old bills

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     In business, some clients and customers pay bills right away. Most restaurants and coffee shops, retail establishments, chiropractors and wellness practitioners get paid as the customer leaves.

     It's common practice for other businesses to send an invoice for goods and services. Printing operations, machine shops, caterers, florists, computing professionals and others are more likely to send a bill and wait for payment. 

     Good customers pay bills within a reasonable time frame. Others, not so much. And it's these laggards who give you headaches.

     Example: Tony runs a computing services operation. A senior vice president at a major corporation hired Tony and his people to develop and install a new program to handle a new segment in their human relations department. It amounted to a big job for Tony's business. Tony asked for and got a substantial upfront payment, the balance to be billed when the work was completed. Everything went well, and the final invoice went out. Tony waited, but the bill went unpaid for two months. Tony made an appointment with the senior VP. He first asked if everything was going well. It was. He then reminded the senior VP that his final bill had not been paid. The senior VP went into action. Tony left with a check.

     Example: Ana runs a frame shop. Her clients are companies, professional offices, clinics, as well as walk-ins. She got a big order from a new clinic in town, and she scrambled to meet the deadline for the grand opening. When the sizable bill was not paid for several months, Ana visited the clinic, engaged the administrator in a friendly conversation about future assignments. When Ana mentioned that the old bill had not been paid, she got immediate action. 

     Example: Ellen is an artist who makes jewelry. She managed to get her jewelry into a high-end gift shop and was thrilled with the outlet for her work. Weeks later, Ellen visited the gift shop and saw that most of her jewelry had disappeared from the display cases. She asked about payment, but she got the classic runaround--being told that she would have to wait until everything had been sold. Then, the gift shop owner explained, Ellen would be paid for everything. She did, indeed, finally get paid, but only after several additional visits. She no longer deals here.

     When your invoices are overdue, you must take action. Threats, incessant phone calls and letters from lawyers might not be the best way to resolve these types of problems. Try the personal approach.

     If a good customer doesn't pay on time, pay a friendly visit. If nothing works, stop dealing with customers who don't pay.

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