In: Just The Tip,
You know when someone reaches over and steals a fry, and for the slightest split second of a moment you're pissed?
It's really only for a split second, because immediately afterward, you tell yourself to stop being greedy, and that you didn't need to be a fatass, anyway. But there's just something about an unauthorized eater, right?
Multiply that feeling by 100,000 and that's what it feels like to have someone steal money from you. Except you aren't just pissed for a split second; instead, you finally realize why the mob exists, and wonder how hard it might be to get a man named Mickey on speed dial. (The answer: Not as hard as you might think—except his name will be Lou, and Lou has B.O.)
Here's the deal: At some point in business, someone will steal from you.
Whether it's directly or indirectly, intentional or not, you will get ripped off. The biggest risk, of course, are new clients who don't have a history yet—particularly the ones who price shop, haggle, ask if you can do any better, and/or mysteriously disappear for weeks on end. There's nothing worse than playing collections officer. Nothing. (Except maybe being a collections officer.)
No one wants to deal with a non-pay. Our office dealt with this a lot back in my advertising sales days. The world's most annoying email to send has got to be, “Just following up on your invoice!” Because let's face it: You aren't just following up. You're wishing them dead. Especially when you can't pay your heating bill.
One solution might be to require payment up front, but anything over $1,000 is a stretch for most people—especially when you don't have some sort of history together.
Another solution might be to swear off doing business with other humans forever, but that's probably not the most profitable way to handle it.
And then there's my solution. (Which involves nothing to the kneecaps, I swear.)
Recently, I stumbled across a company called Celery, which despite being named after a bland, uninteresting vegetable, provides a cool piece of software that allows you to accept pre-orders online. What it does is authorizes a customer's credit card at the time of order, but doesn't charge it until you deliver the product. (And push a button that says, “charge customer.”)
And while it's an awesome way to take pre-orders, I quickly realized that the software could be used in another way, too: To take deposits from clients…and then, with the click of a button, charge the balance once the engagement is over.
No non-pays. No naggy follow-up emails. No collections. No problems.
Sure enough, when I contacted the company, it was as simple as a quick tweak to change the button from “Pre-Order Now” to read “Submit Deposit Now.” And they did just that for me.
Bottom line (pun intended): If you're looking for a surefire way to make sure you get paid, you can go the traditional route of begging…or, you can get hip to technology like Celery and not only make sure you get paid, but make sure you're in control of your business on your terms. Not anybody else's.
Because at the end of the (business) day, you can't always hire someone named Mickey to handle your collections with a baseball bat and a wad of unmarked bills. But putting systems in place that'll help you avoid the need for Mickeys altogether? That's worth its (ass)weight in french fries.