You run your own business or you are an employee or partner of a business and times are tougher than ever, financially.
You are a business owner, partner or employee, you want a business that grows, is successful and profitable and you want to pay your Barristers and Mediators (in the terms of their agreement).
Alternatively you may have a goal to progress your career to the next level (progression is usually based on billables).
You’d probably agree, talking to clients about money and then getting them to pay on time, are both a part of reaching goals. Its fundamental to all business and some professionals career progression.
What often happens and stops clients paying for services on time (or ever), is that professionals are anxious/fearful about having, what is in their mind, a taboo (embarrassing, awkward) conversation (difficult conversation) with clients….. about money. The best short term strategy is avoidance, which is a negative coping mechanism, and at some point it will crack and end in tears!
I was a Practice Manager for Medical Specialists for 15 years prior to entering law. When I was first employed with one specialist he had $500k+ in debts. The specialist had performed surgery and some patients (over a lengthy period of time) didn’t return to see him in follow up and didn’t pay for his services. The debt accumulated the conversations had remained the same.
As a result, when I was employed, I made it a project and spent lots of time trying to collect the $500k+ debts, which was not even close to being my most favourite job. It was hard work, people weren’t happy to hear from me to chase up their debt. I found it was much more difficult to get paid once the services had been rendered. (recovered $480K). Patient/doctor relationships were severed.
I figured out, I had to start conversations and implement a payment system with patients, at the outset. I would speak with patients personally when they made an appointment and inform them of payment expectations:
- They were required to pay on the day of consult and
- When they booked for surgery, I informed them (with a written quote) that one week prior to the scheduled surgery date they were required to pay the full cost of services (with the date for payment provided on the quote).
Here’s what I learned, having conversations about money, reduces stress, it sets expectations and boundaries, every one is clear, it empowers, it normalises money conversations (which will be had at some point in time), as people are used to and expect to pay for their groceries (products), they don’t feel awkward when the Woolies checkout person asks for them to pay or the plumber (services) to come for a call out. It reduces conflict from occurring down the road.
What would happen if you tried this and had money (costs, billing and payment expectations) conversations early with clients:
- Why is it important for me?
2. Why do I need to feel comfortable having money conversations?
3. What will be the cost to my business growth and success, my reputation (late payment to third parties), my career if I don’t?
4. What will I, and clients, gain if I do?
5. What stress will it reduce if I do?
6. Do I need to learn how to be more courageous, freely having difficult conversations, saying what I think and feel (tactfully and respectfully)?
7. Do I need to develop skills to master difficult conversations so I serve others with excellence?
If you are working motivated purely for the accumulation of money and assets, working so hard you don’t feel you have time to breathe, running from one day to the next without any time to be present or think about what you are grateful for, or how you can inspire others, you will feel miserable, disengaged and unmotivated and want to give up. Its no fun to be rich and unhappy, or rich and unmotivated or rich and depressed!
I am not saying focus on money as the only goal of business, if you do, it will end in dissatisfaction. What I am saying is, when we have self respect, value our services and they are delivered with excellence, we recognise that the difficult conversations with clients about money, require courage, its about taking persistent action despite fear. All parties can gain more than they lose by doing so!
Start small…… START! Courage is like a muscle it grows the more we exercise it. Start today!