I hate doing business with big companies. More so, I hate trying to get paid by big companies. But let’s face it: With all the talk of small businesses being the backbone of the U.S. economy, it’s really the big companies who rule the world. My technology services firm has hundreds of small clients and they are very important to me because they help pay the bills. But the big companies give me the large projects that generate my profits. I can’t deny that. We all must do business with corporate America.
Unfortunately, when it comes to getting paid, big companies don’t really care about you or me. Contracts? Agreements? Feh! Go ahead and sue them. Good luck with that.
You’ll have better luck sweet talking these three people who stand between you and your money:
1. The Not-So-Loyal-User. This is the person at the company using your product or service. She has selected you from other competitors because she thinks you’re the best (or the cheapest, but whatever, she still chose you). She is the person who wants you to succeed because if you don’t, she looks stupid for choosing you. In a big company you need as many friends as you can get. So you will have to pay attention to her. She may be your friend now, but she will turn on you if others start souring. Remember, she has no independent thoughts. She is more worried about what others think of her. That is why she works for a big company. And, sorry, but you don’t sign her paycheck. She can be your friend, and she can help you. But she has limited powers. Particularly when it comes time to pay. She did not even have final approval for hiring you. That was done by her boss, the Thinks-He-Has-Power-But-He-Doesn’t-Buyer.
2. The Thinks-He-Has-Power-But-He-Doesn’t-Buyer. This is the person who made the final decision to buy your product or service. He made this decision on the advice of others, like the Not-So-Loyal-User. But he still holds the power of acceptance or denial. This is the guy who sits in a cubicle, or a windowless office all day getting yelled at by his boss, and then goes home and gets yelled at by his wife. On the weekends he puts on tiny shorts and a striped shirt and referees soccer games where he can demonstrate to the world that he still has power over 10 year old kids. This is not how he thought life would end up, working as a middle manager somewhere in Ohio for SuperEnormous Corporation. Be wary of this guy -- he’s itching to use whatever little power he has remaining in his life. He wants to be the bad guy, just so he can prove that he exists. Just because the Not-So-Loyal-User is happy with you, you’re not home yet. To get your check, you need to pay special attention and show special deference to the Thinks-He-Has-Power-But-He-Doesn’t-Buyer. It’s nauseating, I know. But not as nauseating as the Couldn’t-Care-Less-Accounts-Payable-Clerk.
3. The Couldn’t-Care-Less-Accounts Payable Clerk. That’s right: clerk. It’s a term out of the 1950s. But it still applies. Who is the Couldn’t-Care-Less-Accounts-Payable-Clerk? She is a stickler for details but couldn’t care less that you haven’t received payment yet, even though your invoice is 90 days overdue and payment terms specifically said 30 days. She’s been working at the company for 47 years and actually passed away five years ago but no one’s noticed yet. That’s because a corpse could do her job. God forbid there’s a comma missing or a decimal out of place. Your invoice gets put in the never-to-be-rescued pile and it will only take a dozen desperate calls from your bookkeeper to resurrect it for payment. You performed everything as promised, delivered all products and services as demanded, received high fives and even a few loving comments and praise from The-Not-So-Loyal-User, but the Couldn’t-Care-Less-Accounts-Payable-Clerk, well -- she couldn’t care less. You are just a meaningless flea speck. How do you deal with the Couldn’t-Care-Less-Accounts-Payable-Clerk? You don’t. It’s too aggravating. It will make you violent. You have your bookkeeper call her every single day, morning, noon and night, until you have confirmation that your invoice has been received, approved, stamped, authorized, validated and processed, with a specific date for payment. You don’t get involved in this nonsense. You have better things to do with your time. You have other people to worry about.
If you want to really make money, you’re going to have to do business with big companies. And it’s not always pleasant, particularly when it’s time to get paid. But focusing on the right people will make the process go quicker. And delegating the job to someone else is critical. Don’t worry, you’ll get paid. Eventually.