In this business article from The Creative COW Magazine, Ron Lindeboom takes a cowish look at the story of Jack In the Beanstalk.
In the last few days, a thread has been developing in our Business & Marketing forum
that asked what should be done about a "deadbeat client" that was ignoring repeated requests for payment of an outstanding balance of $450. Sounds fair enough, right? After all, we all want to be paid for our legitimate efforts. But in following the thread, a deeper issue came to bare, one which some owner operators fall prey to. It is The Principle of Valuing Your Time Properly.
In reading the thread, it reminded me of the story of Jack In the Beanstalk. You know, the Grimm Brothers fairy-tale about a boy who falls prey to a salesman on his way to market and sells the family's only thing of real value - their cow - for a handful of "magic beans."
The similarities in the two stories are striking: if you substitute a professional's time for Jack's cow, the picture becomes clear. All Jack had was his cow, and all many of us have is our time. Trading it away too cheaply affects ourselves, our family, and our profession.
There comes a time when you have to learn to walk away - to recognize the ship has sailed away along with your chance of ever being paid.
Some in our business forum argued that you have to fight. You cannot let people take advantage of you or you may as well paint a target on yourself. This is true to a point and the successful businessperson will have to find the balance between recovering the debt and knowing when to just walk away.
Some people argued that the original poster should take the deadbeat to Small Claims Court and try to force payment that way. But again something just didn't add up and I found myself at odds with that advice.
Consider the amount of time all this was consuming, as the disruption was affecting both the creative and managerial aspects of the business. They were calling the client repeatedly - clearly agitated enough that they were also adding more time to it all as they sought advice from their peers.
They were not going to let this $450 go, no matter what. It was all for "The Principle," they stated with righteous ire. Sounds right, doesn't it? But I would argue that there are times - at least if you are in business for those that rely on you for food, shelter and other sundry items like these - you have to know which battles you are willing to lose, so that you can win the War of Operating a Successful Business.
Sometimes, The Principle has to give way to the Principal - if you are going to be a professional, one whose business decisions unemotionally consider the real costs of business and not just the simplest immediate considerations.
Pride sometimes gets in the way and causes us to do unproductive things in the name of principle. We will trade hours and hours of our time for something as small as $450 that is sinking fast into the bad debt column. That is not a sound business decision in a bad economy in which you have no idea what is really happening with the person/company that owes you.
Valuing debts should be done without the emotion and using sound business principles that recognize these debts against your hourly rate. When I did this in this matter, it became clear to me that this person failed to recognize the most treasured thing we possess - and which we can never get back when wasted - is our time. It has value and not just that of an hourly rate - the fact is, deadbeats happen. Some purposely, others not. Get over it.
Don't trade that which is priceless for a handful of magic beans.
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