This website, and the associated book, are dedicated to every woman who’s ever broken through a barrier, violated a taboo, or overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve what seemed impossible, but was merely difficult . . . without even breaking a nail, or whining about it if she did.

Why Trust is Good, But Money up Front is Better by Natascha Thomson

Natascha w Hat 2012_12_13I am currently trying to take a client to small claims court. This is much more complicated than I envisioned.  And the outcome is uncertain. But let me begin at the start, so you can avoid my mistakes.

The Honeymoon Phase
Like probably most new business owners, I entered into my marketing consulting practice with trust and naiveté.

There are a lot of administrative things to figure out: how much to charge a client, legal contracts, templates, billing etc.  And then there is also the part where you define your mission and, in my case, place much faith in the human race, because you believe in integrity and honesty.

Reality
I was very lucky with my first few clients who I all knew personally before I started working with them. They all paid on time.

Then a client came as a referral from an old colleague. The rule of thumb is that referrals from people you know are good referrals. But my gut feeling was to turn the project down, as I had little rapport with the client, but I told myself that I had to build my business and could not afford to say no.

What they did not tell you at St. Mary’s Business School….
I don’t want to disclose any details of my work with this client other than that I got positive feedback along the way and we both considered the project outcome a success. The final words were “the check is in the mail”.

After the check did not arrive, an agonizing period started where the client admitted to be unable to pay, asking me to put him on a payment plan. It was very upsetting.

My wake up call came after talking to my accountant and self-employed friends: it turned out that almost everybody I knew had lost money to non-paying clients (this was a very long trail on Facebook). Trying to collect the money can take so much time, effort, and money – and there are no guarantees for success- that many people just write the owed money off. Ouch!

After receiving this feedback, I accepted the client’s payment plan and received the first payment; already a few days late. That was the last payment I received.

The Odds
Unfortunately, after reminding the delinquent client one more time, I see no other avenue but to go to small claims court:

  • If I can figure out where to file the claim (if I get it wrong, case is dismissed)
  • If I can serve the defendant the court notice (somebody else but me has to do this in person and I have to pay; it means one has to track down the person)
  • If I win the case
  • If I can actually collect my money (after I win)

Lesson Learned
The lesson I have learned is to always ask for enough money up front to cover myself until “pay day”.

What I mean by that is, cover yourself (at a minimum) up to the time your first payment is due. Example: you bill every 30 days and your client has 30 days to pay you.  Ask for enough money in advance to cover you for 60 days of work. If the check does not arrive on day 60, you can stop the project but haven’t made a loss. Of course, they could not pay you in the future but at this point, you have at least established some trust.

Having said that, it seems common to ask for anything from a minimum of 20% to 40% (sometimes even more) up front, especially if you charge on a project basis.

If the client refuses: walk way!
To be continued…

ABOUT the AUTHOR: Natascha Thomson is the Owner & Founder of MarketingXLerator – a B2B Social Media Marketing Consultancy – with a focus on using social media to connect people for business impact. She is also a co-author of the book 42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing.

Top Ten Rules for Leadership: Top Ten Tips for Sharing Your Stories by Linda Holroyd

85_Todd_R-_color_284_Linda_HolroydEvery leader has seen and felt this, the desire to share a story in response to a query from another – the look and sound of ‘oh good, a s-t-o-r-y’ from eager eyes and ears crosses all ages, genders, and cultures. And the leader feels the pull, the urgency of the problem, situation or scenario, reflects on why it may be more relevant than the immediate need, contemplates what he or she may share that might be helpful (or who might be more supportive and experienced to address the need), the consequences – good and bad – of doing the sharing, and dives in to tell the tale.

If you buy into the benefits for you and others around you, have seen the growth and benefits and rewards appear before your eyes, and if you’d like to do more story-telling, consider some of the Top Ten guidelines below.

 Reflect On Why There’s a Need, and Why Now

1.     When someone approaches you and values your input and advice, ask yourself who is this person, what does she/he know about me and my background, why is she/he approaching me now, am I the right person to support this person, and if so, do I have a tale to tell?

2.     Be generous with your time, but only if you think through #1 above, and it makes sense to share with this person, and others they will touch. Think that it’s just as much for your own benefit than it is for theirs, and even when it’s not, it’s a task worth doing, an investment worth making.

Make It Feel Real, But Not Personal

3.     Your story must be heart-felt, hard-earned, relevant, and personal, even if it did not happen directly to you.

4.     Bring your story alive with your non-verbal clues from inflections to gestures, from phrasing to idioms, while being sensitive to the needs of your audience.

Connect the Dots, Without Hitting Them Over the Head

5.     Everyone hates a know-it-all, especially if the speaker doesn’t know it all. Remember this especially when you’re sharing a tale. Nobody wants to be preached to, especially by a know-it-all wannabe! (Not that I’m referring to *you* specifically, or anyone else you know.)

6.     The best leadership tales help listeners connect the dots between disparate, previously unconnected people, ideas, things. They address the in-your-face issue of today, and generalize to anticipated, expected or desired opportunities of tomorrow. So walk the right balance between helping listeners make the connections and spelling out what the lessons-learned should be, as the best listeners will see far beyond where you think it could go, and could benefit the story-teller in ways unimaginable.

Be Humble and Even Self-Deprecating When Sharing Your Tale

7.     We connect with people who are successful *and* human. Someone is reaching out to you out of respect for who and what you are, and think that you have something to share with them. If you are humble, and share your humanness, rather than pointing to your credentials (which is unnecessary in their eyes), they would be more likely to be responsive to your tale.

8.     In fact, when you collect a series of tales-to-tell, start with times that you’ve been at your worst. The tales will be the most engaging, humorous *and* healing for you.

Offer Follow-Up and Resources and Support

9.     You’ve told a tale. It has sunk in. The other is joyous, pleased, energetic. But don’t stop there. Be there for her or him to follow up and support their journey, from the immediate need, to the path well beyond that.

10.  Share resources beyond yourself who could address themes, concerns, networks, and other anticipated interests of the listener, so that your gift keeps on giving, and you’re less likely to be the only avenue of support.

Make a new year’s resolution, a gift to yourself. Tell a tale to someone who needs one, ask for a tale from someone you respect, to address a need that keeps coming back!

ABOUT the AUTHOR:
Linda Holroyd
is the CEO of FountainBlue, a Marketing and Strategy Adviser Company for many Tech Companies.

The FountainBlue’s monthly top-ten rules of leadership article is designed to guide Linda’s clients, entrepreneurial tech companies and the community in general on leadership best practices for themselves, and for their teams and organizations. Launched in December 2012, the questions and stories raised and the advice given has been mentioned before to individual members, and compiled and gathered to benefit the larger community. This month’s top-ten-leadership rules are on ‘The Top Ten Tips for Sharing Your Stores’.

She invites your questions about your marketing and leadership successes and challenges.  Please E-mail her at info@FountainBlue.biz if you have your suggestions on her marketing and leadership topics.  You might want to ask for her help with your own marketing or leadership opportunities or questions.

You can follow on her Scoops http://www.scoop.it/ageofpersonalization.
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