Update Nov. 20: overnight I received a courteous and complete reply. The funds have now been sent, and my bank seems to have been part of the problem, since a month ago. It would have been useful to know that – without that information there was no way for me to help. I’ll update again as the situation proceeds.
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.
In #16 (January) I said “For a small business, cash is king.” Then in June, #19 was titled: “What’s up with expense checks??” To a small business (like a patient starting a speaking business), this is no small issue, and any event that wants to say it’s patient-centered needs to see things from the patient’s point of view. In #19, citing a then-current overdue item, I said:
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.)
All those past due items cleared up within a month, through diligent management of each item (by my assistant Kristin and me). That takes more time, costing my business extra resources – exactly as described in #16: they keep the money, I lose interest, and I also expend more to get what they owe me. Most definitely a case of one party not keeping their side of the deal.
But today I received one of the worst examples ever. Some months ago I bent over backward to attend an event – the travel was difficult, and there were other issues. We submitted the expenses promptly, but payment is past due. Yesterday I asked for status, and got this reply:
… Please understand we are all working on so many different things already for next year …
Really? Too busy on next year’s conference to pay me for the cash I put out months ago??
Here are some clips from the earlier exchanges. From me:
It’s been a full month since the expenses were sent. We haven’t heard any acknowledgement – I’m concerned – did you receive them??
If you did receive them, when should we expect to receive payment? We already spent the money almost two months ago and have paid the credit card bills. Since I’m a tiny company cash flow is very important.
Their reply the next day:
I sent the request to the financial department three weeks ago. I will ask them if they had some problems with the account number or bank data.
But I heard nothing back. Next note from me:
Hi – our previous email was 11 days ago. This is a lot of money, and it’s now well overdue, so I need to ask, what is the status? Thank you for your help … I hope I can get a good reliable answer for them promptly. After all, they made a promise.
Sorry about my late reply. I do understand it is a lot of money, of course.
Please understand we are all working on so many different things already for next year and especially all the steps for a payment (our office, the finance office, the bank..). sorry about that. So this is the situation:
Finally today (after also all the steps on the way back to me) the Financial Department sent me back your reimbursement form. The bank could not proceed with the payment because of an error or issue in the account information you gave us. Please kindly send us again the following information in order to finally reimburse you: …
So, more than a month after the approved invoice went to Finance, and only when someone asked, Finance said “Oh, there was a problem.” They didn’t say what the problem was – they just asked me to send the same info again!
I’d say that’s disrespectful. (Perhaps their finance workflow is just incompetent – they don’t know what they’re doing – but to ask me to “please understand” suggests no respect for my time and the cash that I paid out months ago for them. Their request amounts to “Please accept that we can’t do this efficiently, and wait patiently.”)
So this becomes the first client to earn the procedure I described in #16: I’m blogging the email exchange without identifying them. If this money isn’t in my account in one week (Wednesday Nov 26), I’ll add names.
I hope this will get the attention of the event managers who can actually make things happen, because it is not appropriate to treat a patient (or any small business) this way. (It’s not appropriate to treat anyone this way, but it’s especially true for someone who doesn’t have an industry salary, as most of their attendees do.)
Speaker Academy followers, please note how very important it is to stay on top of payment workflows. Notice that when we sent the invoice and got no response, I really should have asked “Did you get this?” earlier.
Next in the series: #20: Message lessons from a video boot camp