If you’re running any kind of business with any kind of clients, it’s important that you maintain control, or manage your relationship with them.
Now, if you’re selling commodities (I tend to use milk or other essentials as an example) your main obligation in this area is to deliver what your customers expect – in other words, they need to expect what it is you deliver. In this case, milk of a certain quality that’s safe to consume.
But managing expectations is also critical in a consultant to client relationship, too. As it is in the case of an artisan to customer relationship, or when you’re a supplier servicing a corporation.
Giving the customer what they signed up for is not quite the same as giving them what they expect. You may need to manage their expectations by making it very clear just what they’re buying and what they should expect to receive. A client or customer who expected more – even if it wasn’t in the agreement between you – is an unhappy customer and could be a real problem.
It’s up to you to manage their expectations. For example, if results can’t be guaranteed (despite your best efforts), don’t let them think that they are.
The second area you need to manage is payment for your services and products. You cannot be a charity and stay in business (unless you are a charity, of course). Credit control is critical, especially for a small business, and losing control here could easily pull you under.
How you deal with late payers depends on a lot of things, including how clear you were at the outset about payment terms, how good your relationship is with them now, and how well you both communicate. In the end, though, honesty is your best policy and it’s the least you should expect from them. Tell them how much they owe and that you expect it to be paid. You don’t need to be aggressive or unpleasant, just assertive and absolutely clear.
As a next-to-last resort, you can stop providing your services until they pay up, or even reclaim the goods you’ve supplied.
If they value you or what you supply, your customers and clients will not want to lose you. If not, you probably don’t want them either.
In that case, let them go. And get someone else to chase the debt while you concentrate on finding better clients.