Diary of a Business Woman

Confrontations

by Joanne Leitschuh

I am not looking forward to tomorrow. I glanced at my list of overdue accounts before I left the office today and saw that I had to phone 20 people. Because of possible confrontations, it's one of those monthly tasks that I am tempted to put off. However, I am always glad when it's finally accomplished.

Confrontations with people don't seem intimidating if you are confident that you are speaking the truth_justice is on your side. For example, a person's invoice is three months overdue. They understand that our company's trading terms are 30 days nett. At this point, they already have been sent three statements, a "polite reminder", and a letter that is a bit more stern. The sales representative might even have mentioned the amount outstanding. Now it's time to phone before the "heavy" letter is sent which threatens legal action.

Phoning Debtors

The first goal when phoning overdue accounts is to speak to the right person_the one who manages the finances. When I tell the person who answers who it is that is calling, they might say the accountant is not in. Sometimes, all I have to do is say my name and they already KNOW why I am calling! There are cases when the invoice has truly got lost in their system. On a few occasions they thought "so-and-so" had it on their desk or that it was "already taken care of".

Whatever the outcome of the conversation, I make notes of the genuine promises as well as those that might be stalling tactics. I have no problem with working with a buyer if I know they are just having a temporary set-back. Our company cannot operate as a bank, but I'd rather give someone extra time than begin legal proceedings. These require much preparation time from myself as well as fees to our collection agency.

After I get through my list, I am more clear in my mind on the position of each overdue account. That's what makes it all worthwhile--knowing each individual's circumstances and feeling confident that someday, hopefully in the near future, we will receive the money that is due.

Another benefit of being aware of the accounts receivable is that it helps to service our customers better. This means that the sales representative can be guided by each account's past payment history. How much stock can this customer actually afford at this time? What styles will sell the best for their store, making a good profit and fast turnover? How can we arrange the sizes and dates of the deliveries so that they can realistically meet our payment goals? Developing a trusting relationship, both in the store and in the office, is what makes business enjoyable. It is rewarding to be in the right stores for the jewellery that we sell and watch the sales benefit our customers--and us!

The Benefits

Confrontations with overdue accounts seem to have something in common with my relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Do we put off saying something that is important to one of us? Do we both agree on certain areas of concern or policy? Do we both want the highest for each other when a constructive word needs to be said? Are we patient when we fall short of meeting each other's expectations?

I heard it said that a word well-chosen and finely placed is like a gem. Proverbs 15:23 tells how a timely word can be delightful. Perhaps phoning someone to say that their £300 payment is late or speaking hard-to-take words to a friend isn't delightful, but it could bring enlightenment to both the other person and myself. What is there to learn from this situation? Are we both willing to change if need be? Are we both ready to progress to the next highest level? Constructive criticism or simply stating circumstances plainly can--through time--be tools used to produce fine, shining gems!

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