I’ve been reading your column now for the past few years and as a credit & collection professional at a small distribution company, I’ve always found your advice to be spot on. That said, I never thought I’d actually be writing to you. Recently though, I’ve been confronted with a problem that not only affects my position, but also the financial well-being of my employer.
A few weeks ago, my president came up to me and asked me about our outstanding receivables. I told him that we have several from some of our best and long-term customers and that I’ve been sending some emails and making a few calls. When he heard that he was a little annoyed and instructed me to refrain on calling them as he didn’t want to disturb the relationship. He went on to say that he would appreciate if I concentrated on the smaller accounts and do the best I can. I responded that of course I’ll follow whatever he would like me to do but I mentioned to him that our larger customers also owe the larger monies, and that we really do need their payments asap. His reply to me was, “I’ll handle it from here.”
Crabby, I’m really worried about our company’s future. Cash flow has been very tight and we’re behind on our own payables. We’ve also had to let people go and others are working limited hours. As I’ve been here for ten years and love the company, what can I do to emphasize the urgency of this matter to our president?
Signed: Stopped Cold Turkey on Certain Collection Calls
Dear Cold Turkey,
You’ve got a real problem and it’s not an unusual one for many small companies during this difficult period. Sometimes small business owners get themselves into a mental conundrum. On one hand they know they need the money from their customers but on the other hand, they’re afraid that if they push them, even a little bit, the customer might go elsewhere. At the same time, every day their ship sinks a little more and the more it sinks, the more paralyzed they are to take action. Here are my two cents for your consideration.
1) Since you really care about the company, I’m sure others do too. Is there someone above you with whom you could share your concerns? If there is and you can discuss the amount outstanding by your large customers, then maybe that person would be in a better position to approach the president about the urgency of the matter.
2) What are your sales professionals doing to generate new sales? You might be in a position to help by letting them know that some of the current good paying customers could actually purchase more if they were informed that higher credit limits can be provided. In other words, you might have some smaller accounts now that could be bigger paying accounts in the near future if they were encouraged to purchase more.
Notwithstanding your loyalty to your company, if in the end the necessary action isn’t forthcoming and you’ve done all you could to improve it, you may have to make some difficult decisions. You may have to decide whether or not it’s worth to you to jump ship or go down with it.
Please let me know what happens.
Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (firstname.lastname@example.org) are most welcome!
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