If you do business with Fortune 500 companies, you know how hard it is to get them to pay their bills in anything less than 60 days. But slow payment is not a major problem for The Associates Group Inc., a small product-development company in Westport, Conn. President John T. Loechner manages to get his big-company clients to agree up front to shorten their payment schedules.

Loechner's secret is logic. "Threats and hardship don't mean a hoot," he says. "Logic does. We say, 'Listen, we're selling our people's time. We're behaving like your employees. So we would appreciate a 15-day payment policy."

Of course, it helps to make your case to the right person. For political reasons, Loechner talks first to the project manager. If that doesn't work, he goes to the chief operating officer. Why not the financial people? Loechner has found that they tend to go by the book and are less likely to make exceptions.