When I was a young man just starting out in business, my dad gave me a lot of advice. The following one I attribute to my successes in business and in my personal life.
He said (as a general construction contractor for NYC Agencies), collections will be slow. I will be getting constant calls from material suppliers and sub-contractors looking for payment. There are the usual ways to handle this. They are as follows;
1) Not returning the calls for days or a week.
2) Returning the calls and promising to send out a check (when you know that is not what is going
to happen). When they call you back several days later, you:
(a) Don’t return the call for several days – stalling more and more till some money comes in.
(b) Oh, I thought I told the bookkeeper to get it out to you. I’ll make sure he/she does.
(c) You send the check, but somehow you forgot to sign it and they need to send it back to you
3) Checks due any day now, give me a call back next week and we should be fine (another lie).
4) You didn’t get? I’m positive it was mailed. Let me check and get back to you.
5) I signed your check, but my partner (if you need two signatures) never signed it
6) The bookkeeper was out for a few days, but it’s going right out.
7) My apologies. It’s been sitting in the to go box, but never went out. I’ll mail it right out
8) I was away, but I’ll take care of it, now
When they don’t receive the check in a few days, it doesn’t take too long before your word becomes worthless. Making it worse, you wind up fighting or arguing with the very people who you need to work with. Even if you didn’t need or want to work with them in the future, do you really want to walk around being on edge?
So it begs the answer to – what do I do or say when I am being called for payment, when the money isn’t coming in for a while? The following is how I handled it and gained respect and the trust of everyone I did business with:
I would ALWAYS return every call. I never dodged anyone. I NEVER lied about when they could expect payment. I would say: I’m sorry, but I cannot get you a check right now. They wouldn’t like that and start telling me that it was due (which it was) and they wanted a check, and when can they expect it? Or they wanted to come by the office and pick it up. My response was always the same and went something like this. I know you’re not going to like what I’m about to say, but if you’ll hear me out, you will in time, understand and come to appreciate it. I can tell you some sort of non-sense, like (see 1 – 7 above). You’ll hang up the phone thinking you will have a check, but in a few days, you and I will be back on the phone doing the same dance. I’m sorry, but I refuse to do that game. I will tell you almost exactly when the check will be going out, because money right now is too tight, but there are a number of payments coming in from the xxxx NYC Agencies. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but at least it’s the truth and better you always know the truth. In this way, you can make better financial planning, not being misled by the money you are expecting from me. Like I said, although you may not like the answers you get from me, in a certain sense you will, because they will always be the truth and that will be something we can all work together with.
It took time, but over the course of the months and years, those that did business with me, loved doing business with me. We all enjoyed real and honest relationships.
The same went for the performance of the construction projects I did. Keep in mind that the projects were alterations to hospitals, schools, prisons, post offices, court houses, etc that were occupied and running while tearing them apart and putting them back together (no easy task.) The pressure was always on from the government engineers and heads of these buildings to push and get the work done. You were always being asked for more workers and to push the sub-contractors more and more (even though the project was on schedule). I would joke by saying “If you’ll pay me as fast as I can get it done, you watch and see how fast it gets done”. They really didn’t appreciate my humor (Payments were slooooooow!)
My response again was always truthful. Most contractors would appease the requests by saying, yes there were more workers coming (but in truth, it wasn’t the truth). They were obviously, after a while, not believable – no different from their relationships with their creditors. I would tell them flat out, if and when they could or could not expect more people from me – whether they liked it or not, came to appreciate my answers and honesty. Believe me, it wasn’t easy at times, but they and I could live with and work with the truth. There were no intentional misleading responses from me that they were passing on to the higher up’s about progress on the projects (at one point in my business, I had sixty-nine (69) projects going simultaneously with no cell phones, copy machines, computers, etc. – and it was a dance!).
The end result of it all was one of the head Directors of NYC Health and Hospitals Corp telling a big New York State official at an inspection of the hospital, that Harris was the best there was. There was also the Director of the then named Dept. of Public Works, saying I was the most credible person and contractor he ever met. There was also the bonding company rep (to do government projects, a contractor had to be bonded by an insurance company – not easy to be one), who would say “Everyone loves Harris).
We live and die in both our working and our personal life by what we say and what we do.
What exactly are you saying and doing with the others in your life? – Think about it.
Good luck and good practicing
It’s MY LIFE and MY COUNTRY & I want it, is the name of the game,
‘It’s My Money & I Want It!’ is the name of my book
Learn to stand up for yourself and not be the intimidated by the corporations
and their political puppets (or their victims).
Harris Glasser – Author, Lecturer, Business & Personal Consultant, Debt Settling
www.HarrisHelps.org “It’s My Money & I Want It!”
(More next week)