But for now, let's work with v. 1.01: collections.
About a year ago I arrived at work on an otherwise bright Monday morning to find a note from one of our baristas on my desk, hastily scrawled during the morning rush: "Albertine at UPS says our account is going to be suspended because we don't pay our bills. Call him at 1800-xxx...".
I called in, and spoke with Albertine's supervisor, Nancy. The bill in question was the ONLY bill that had been late in six years (billed weekly, that's 1/312th..). Still, Nancy was unrelentingly aggro with me. A real pit-bull. As we hung up, I exhaled deeply, thankful that I wasn't her boyfriend or her dad.
Collecting bills is an unpleasant job. I'm filled with awe for people who can do it for a living and still remain cheerful and adjusted. I think it's different when it's your own money, though. Like any businessman that grants NET terms, I have to do collections on a regular basis. But courtesy of UPS (and about thirty other ex-vendors), I've learned about (and partially mastered...ouch...) the art of restraining my seemingly infinite sense of self-righteousness when dressing up for collections day.
Most customers I've called on for lateness have been late for one of very few predictable reasons:
- They didn't get the bill
- I didn't send the bill
- Their business is slow and their margins have suffered
- Their payables contact has been ill, or was on vacation
- They are good-natured slobs who just don't do paperwork often enough
And maybe one slim percent of my overdue invoices are held by that gonif who needs to wake up with Khartoum's head on his pillow.
So 99% of the time that I approach a late customer in aggressive way, I wind up being an Ass: alienating a long term client (only long term clients get terms...), and raising a ruckus when the ruckus really serves no end at all 'cept enhancing some abstract and deranged sense of Manhood.
In closing, I try to think of fluffy white clouds and playful puppies when I collect bills. I think the tasty Jameson and soda that awaits at the end of the day. I try to be a sucker. I struggle to remember that if I make one terrible mistake on collections day, it should be that I was way too kind to a bona-fide deadbeat, rather than being an Ass to someone who is truly important to me and to my company.
Next up: the UPS debacle and its remarkably pleasant resolution...