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.
How would these individuals collect on a past due invoice?
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?
The book is due for publication in May of 2018. Meantime, we are publishing the draft of several chapters every few weeks. Here is one for Donald Trump:
How would Donald Trump collect a past due invoice?
Some people make a name for themselves and others make themselves a name. Donald Trump has been on a mission for quite a few years with his name and though ‘politically incorrect’ may not be sufficient to describe his approach and comments and even his best friends and family might like to wrest twitter use away from him, nobody can argue that he hasn’t put the name of Trump front and foremost at every level of reporting and news in North America and beyond.
When working at the Trump Tower in earlier years, his first task of the day was to review all news reports that mentioned the Trump name. If this has been his mission, and at times it seems it is, he has been very effective.
There have been numerous reports about Donald Trump and his habits and philosophy of paying his bills. If the reports are to be believed, there are many businesses, particularly in the small and medium range, who report delays and then often, not being paid in full. Some have reported it as “The Trump Discount”. Mr. Trump himself will tell you an aggressive style is necessary for success. As far as non or delayed payment, he does not apologize. If they do not finish or do a good job, he says he will deduct from their contract.
However, all of those reports concern accounts payable, an area I sometimes refer to as ‘the dark side’. This chapter and the book deals with how Donald Trump, and others, would handle a situation when they are owed money. It isn’t as though Donald Trump has no experience in accounts receivable. When collecting rents for apartments back in the early years of business, he said it was a good idea to stand to the side of the door after you knocked, just in case they toss some hot water when they open the door.
Most of the time, when I teach collection techniques, I recommend that it is best to keep it professional and not take it personally. Most of the time. All of us might prefer a win/win in negotiations and collections. Donald Trump, I believe, considers it a greater success the more he wins. Trump would consider non or delayed payment to him as an intention to do harm and he takes great pride in being a counter puncher. He would take steps to collect in full…and more. Getting even is one thing, but I believe he would go beyond. He would want you or anyone else who owed him money to think very long and hard before you did not pay as agreed in the future. After all, ‘you started it’, by not paying him on time in the first place.