Our film industry in Canada is not large but we have managed to turn out some gems over the years. A few years ago, a wonderful film, “C.R.A.Z.Y.” was delivered to us by the talented director Jean-Marc Vallée. After viewing the film recently, I got into a discussion with some folks about words like ‘crazy’ and ‘insane’.

We couldn’t manage to come to an agreement on what is ‘crazy’ or what is ‘sane’, but we did agree that a reasonable definition of ‘insanity’ was trying to do the same thing – and expect different results. If that wasn’t bad enough, I have discovered that sometimes, in life and in the business of collections, using the same technique will produce worse results.

Not too long ago, my son Chris took a tour of the Toronto Humane Society on River Street in Toronto. He noted they had a St. Bernard up for adoption and knowing my wife and I are partial to dogs, gave me a call. I took a drive down to their office the next day, but the St. Bernard was gone. (A day late and a dollar short, eh?) However, I did take notice of a Bassett hound name ‘Duke’, about 17 months old who was looking for a good home.

The report outside his ‘cell’ said he was friendly, house-broken, but could use some additional training.  He was friendly. However, he had a rather ‘cavalier’ attitude in regards to his ‘house-breaking’, he knew ‘what to do and where’, but it depended on his mood. As far as some additional training is concerned – it became almost a full time job. I will give the folks at the Humane Society the benefit of the doubt for truth in advertising, but one out of three?

The result was that we had to start from scratch with most training, including teaching him how to go for a walk. He was a strong dog and it took all of my strength just to try and pull him back and keep up with him. It didn’t appear I was slowing him down, if anything I think I was just building his strength! (If we kept walking the same way and I used the same technique of trying to pull him back, the results would just get worse – he would be stronger and his ‘training of me’ reinforced.)

I conducted some research on training and an expert told me that one of the best techniques in this type of a situations is to stop dead in my tracks when he wanted to pull. I was letting him know that as long as he was ‘pulling’, we were not going to go anywhere. On a few occasions, I would even turn and go in the opposite direction. It took patience and it took time, but he got the message and altered his behavior.

(By the way, “Duke” was a bit different than a standard Basset Hound. Though his legs were short, they were perhaps twice as long as you might expect from his breed. Some research on the Internet on dog breeds suggested he might be a “Spanish Basset Hound”, but I tried some Spanish commands on him…they didn’t work either!)

For some debtors, it seems you resolve their excuse and they just come up with another and they have a lot more where that came from. Sometimes in our business, it seems we are professional onion peelers, get one layer off and there is another.

We can keep on with resolving the excuses they offer us, but sometimes I get the feeling it is only making it worse – just improving their creativity.

Time to stop in your tracks:

“Mrs. Debtor, this just isn’t going to do. It doesn’t matter what I say in trying to help you resolve this account, you just try and pull another rabbit of an excuse out of the hat.”

How about walking in the opposite direction:

You may add this to the previous statement or use it on its own. “I appreciate the difficulties you are facing, but I’m looking to arrange full payment today of $ (full amount due).

Will it work? Let me put it this way, it worked with Duke, my Spanish Basset Hound and if it worked with him – it should work with anybody. On other occasions, if it does not get you the money owed, it will at least let them know in no uncertain terms that you are not going to play ‘their’ game and blithely follow in any direction they want to go. Put ‘em on notice.