This is the latest in the Speaker Academy series, which started here. The series is addressed to patients and advocates who basically know how to speak on a subject but want to make a business out of it. I’ll try to be clear to all readers, but parts may assume you’ve read earlier entries.
I’m really not happy to be writing this, but push has come to shove. Two thirds of my expense reimbursements are past due, and fully a third of them are more than 90 days out. I’ve seen some people stretch payments at times, but I’ve never seen anything like this.
The stories I’ve been getting about “gosh, sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it” or “gosh, the only person who can write checks went on vacation” or “we only print checks on Thursdays and she was out when she came back from vacation” are familiar, but this year they’re much more common. What’s up, healthcare? Is The Big Ugly coming home to roost?
I wrote about The Big Ugly last year:
… something I’m starting to call The Big Ugly – a wave of suffering that will happen as the medical industry contracts, and everyone tries to find ways to maintain their income. Unfortunately when an industry shrinks, everyone can’t maintain the same income. As anyone knows who’s seen an industry die (like mine, typesetting; or steel in America, or what Detroit went through), it’s painful. Good people get hurt, and organizations fight for survival.
It’s interesting, because the people I work with, for the event are good and almost entirely on time with paying my fees. But expense reimbursements? They seem to go through a different approval and payment process. I mean, things get lost in the expense rabbit hole, and even my good-to-work-with friends are unable to extract them.
Honoring agreements can be done – check out the Client Honor Roll that I posted a few weeks ago in #18 – organizations who have paid every single check on time. All you who say “There’s nothing we can do,” take note: it can be done. So it’s time to start naming names of offending companies.
I know if I do that I’ll never work with that client again, but I’m willing to risk that. It won’t help me a bit, but it will set a precedent: this abuse of business partners must stop. This isn’t so much about me as it is about patient voices who are just starting to speak. For them, late reimbursement can be a serious problem. (More on this in a moment.)
As I said in Speaker Academy #16 (“Being businesslike about cash flow”):
4. There are many ways the train can jump the track.
…Most clients are great to work with. Others are disorganized, and some are schnooks….
- The disorganized …
- The weasels. In some organizations the finance people are weasels (there, I said it) who routinely drag their feet on paying all bills, not honoring contractual agreements. Note: finance can be weasels even if your contacts are great….
Weasels thrive in vagueness, and the disorganized live there naturally. So in your communications, be specific…
Well, I’ve used my own methods (very specific communication) for months now, and it’s not working. So, starting tomorrow, I’ll do the blogging that I said (in #16) I’ve never had to do: I’m going to paste in the entire email thread from the current worst offender, with no names attached. And if the money hasn’t arrived by Friday, the names get added. (Their next scheduled check run is Thursday, and I’m sure they know how to use Fedex.)
Honestly, I hope this will cause public embarrassment – within the company – for the individuals responsible for not getting the job done. Actually I imagine (from my experience in business) they are getting the job done, by holding onto cash that they owe other people, all the while saying, “There’s nothing we can do.” In that case, the responsibility is with top management.
In the patient empowerment world – where our lives may be on the line – we know that “There’s nothing I can do” is the expression of being disempowered, and we don’t accept that from each other. As I said in #16:
What [these slow payers] don’t understand sometimes is that to a big business on a fat cushion, being squeezed may be unfair but it doesn’t hurt much. To a tiny business (that would be you) it can be fatal, or at least harmful: to a tiny party, poor cash flow can trigger bounced checks and late fees, which can start the cascade into bad credit scores and other darkness.