How Would Confucius Collect

a Past Due Invoice?

How Would Donald Trump?

by Tim Paulsen


Imagined collection techniques by scholars, saints, sinners, rogues, captains of industry and non-commissioned officers and privates in the war on debtor amnesia.

Would you turn away advice on collecting from the likes of:

  • Dale Carnegie

  • Confucius

  • Sigmund Freud

  • Abraham Lincoln

  • Machiavelli

  • The Mafia

  • Nelson Mandela

  • St. Paul

  • Shakespeare

  • Donald Trump

  • …and more

Some people call it completing the sale and some invoice management. Many consultants refer to it as managing risk. There are a few of us that call it by the well-known yet perhaps distasteful bill collections. For most of this book, we simply refer to it as ‘collections’. After all, to paraphrase William Shakespeare (chapter 9), ‘call it by any other name and people, eventually, will still wrinkle their nose’.

Some of you will remember the comedian Rodney Dangerfield who made a successful career out of ‘I get no respect’. As far as professions are concerned… well, let me put it this way:  In one of my seminars on effective collection techniques, when I told the audience that collections was the second oldest profession in the world, someone in the second row piped up and said, ‘And, the least reputable of the two’.

No respect. That’s us.

Yet, they can’t do without us, can they? I have worked with many organizations around the world. I often ask them, “How long do you think your firm would survive if you did not have a collection department?” A firm with a good product and service might, just might manage six to eight months. Human nature will come into play, squeaky wheels and all. While it does matter that you have a good product and service, if you don’t ask for the money – you don’t tend to get it. And those firms that do not ask for it well, tend to get it last…if at all.

This business of effective collections is both an Art and a Science. Most firms have CMS (Collection Management Systems), automated diallers, behavioural scoring and much more. In collections, like so many other fields, science allows us to be incredibly productive compared to the way we worked just a few years ago. However, when push comes to shove, metaphorically speaking, you still have one person talking to another on the telephone, by email, letter or perhaps in person, trying to convince them to do something they don’t want to do – and like it. That my friends, is an Art.

How then, might some of the best persuaders in history have fared as a collector? Like the title says, how would Confucius collect a past due invoice? Saint Paul, who one author called “The Greatest Salesman in the World” was no slouch when it came to writing letters, you only need to ask the Corinthians, how might he have sent an email?

Is there something for us to learn by imagining the techniques used by some of the most successful and perhaps notorious people who have ever lived. I think so and I hope that you do to.

It seems to me there are lessons to be learned and much fun to experience.

Care to join me?


Hear Donald Trump’s collection call from his chapter: