By John Ingrisano
Too often, in business, we’re afraid to ask for the money. Here are two examples – one how to do it right; the other how to waste time and money doing it wrong.
Example # 1: I’ve had the same veterinarian for my dogs for about 10 years. In the past, she’d do the annual checkup, give the shots and hand me the bill. I never carried my checkbook with me, but instead took the bill home and paid it faithfully within two weeks. Though I always paid, it was just a habit, this delaying payment.
I suspect some other of her customers were not always so diligent, requiring her to bill them several times. I also suspect she had a growing list of uncollected collectibles. In this respect, I estimate that she may have spent an hour or two a month re-billing customers, time she could have used to see more patients or spend with her family.
Well, about a year ago, she handed me the bill after giving Rocky the Boxer his annual toe-to-tail once-over. I began to pocket it, when she (very likely screwing her courage to the sticking place, as Shakespeare would say) told me that payment was due at the time of service. I hemmed and hawed and said my checkbook was at home. She reminded me that she took credit cards.
I admit to being a tad flummoxed at this change in our routine. Still, I had no grounds for my annoyance. I handed her my credit card and, while signing the slip, found myself recognizing that she had made a good business policy decision in requesting/insisting on payment at the time of service. It helps that she’s an awfully good vet. She has a good, gentle manner with my dog and takes the time to explain things to me.
I was in last week, finished up the appointment and had my credit card out before she even wrote up the bill. She gets her money promptly, cuts down on invoicing time and money, and still has my respect and loyalty as a customer.
Example # 2: I needed a glazier at my place a few months ago to replace a window pane. (I hate it when I leave my keys in the house and have to break into my own place!) He was great, driving almost 20 miles each way to get there the same day and fixing the window within 30 minutes. I whipped out my checkbook, ready to pay on the spot, but he declined to accept my money. Instead, he billed me several days later, and I paid the invoice within two weeks.
Now, I’m not criticizing this fellow’s work or his integrity. On the contrary, he is top quality. However, I suspect he knew what the cost would be by the time he finished replacing the glass and could have either taken five minutes to write up an invoice on the spot or even just said, “Oh, that’ll be X dollars. Cash or a check works.”
However, he must have devoted at least 15 minutes to writing up and mailing me his invoice, for a job that was very small, a very inefficient and unnecessary process.
My point: Be bold. Ask for payment at the time of service. Stop invoicing customers/clients for fixed-cost services or items or when the cost is easily calculated. If necessary, write up a price sheet of your standard prices and circle the appropriate one at the time of sale/service.
Then take that extra hour or two a week and go do something special with your spouse, children or just a good friend.
So, work hard, make money, have fun, and be sure to ask for the money!John Ingrisano The Freestyle Entrepreneur 209 Church Street Algoma, WI 54201 (920) 559-3722 www.TheFreestyleEntreprenuer.com
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