You aren't sure you're going to meet the bills this month. You work hard, yet you're lucky if you take home a regular paycheck. And there are a handful of very particular customers who seem to demand the bulk of your time, while others sing your praises and love everything you do for them.
Sound familiar? You're not alone, it's a scenario I hear often. Oh, I forgot one more important question. Those clients who demand the bulk of your time and energy and rarely seem satisfied? Do they owe you money? Uh huh, thought so. It's puzzling isn't it?
Well, let's see if we can put the puzzle pieces together with a few more questions. What is the average age of your accounts receivable? Have you been billing your clients in a timely manner? These are the first 2 questions I ask a business owner when dollars are tight for them. And it's often where we find the answers.
If you have customers who frequently pay late, it's time to review their value to your business. Oftentimes, business owners hold on to late paying customers out of fear. After all, late money is better than no money, right? Well, that assumption is correct only if you have no plans of replacing the revenue. Do you really believe there are no more customers out there? You probably just haven't had the time to find them.
Here's a quick checklist. If you have a difficult customer or two, keep them in mind as you ask yourself the following questions.
'˘ Do I enforce late fees and other policies to encourage this customer to pay on time or do I brush it under the carpet for fear of confrontation?
'˘ Do I allow this customer to intimidate me?
'˘ Do I send timely billing statements, reminders, and follow up with frequent phone calls?
'˘ Do I consistently continue to provide service or products to this customer even if he or she has an outstanding balance?
'˘ What is my stress level like when I deal with this customer?
'˘ How much more time does this account demand than my other accounts for similar service?
'˘ If the customer is unable to pay on time, do I ask for a portion of the balance?
This checklist may have given you some areas to improve upon, or simply food for thought. Now I have one more critical question for you. If you could recoup all of the hours in the week that you would normally spend on this/these accounts and you spent those hours doing marketing and sales, how quickly could you find more clients? For example, let's say that you spend 15 hours a week on an account that is a huge headache and doesn't pay on time, if ever. If you spent those 15 hours on additional marketing and sales instead, could you replace that account? Probably. Also, factor in a higher level of productivity once your stress level improves. There isn't enough money in the world to offset high stress.
Is it time to crack down on one or more of your customers? Hopefully, the checklist has helped you to determine the answer. You work hard and you deserve to be respected for your work with timely payment and healthy working relationships.
Questions? Feel free to ask them here on The Solopreneurs Million-Dollar Mindset.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.