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$20,000 Bad Debt #1

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We did everything right in this assignment, but still had problems collecting. We were hired by a well-known friend, which is usually positive. We had a written agreement—another positive. We performed our services extraordinarily well, a third positive.
Then it came time to collect. We had received an initial deposit and some progress payments, but it was impossible to collect the remaining $26,000 balance. For one thing, the friend who hired us had left the company. For another, our client company was having cash flow problems.
I tried soft approaches and pleasant phone calls to no avail. My collection efforts became increasingly hostile, and toward the end, downright insane. The deadbeat CEO was a prominent leader in a Denver minority chamber of commerce. When all collection attempts were failing, I threatened to make the problem known to the chamber board of directors. As you can imagine, he went ballistic—but still didn’t pay.
Our client had a contract with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and we provided services to the BLM as his subcontractor. When he didn’t pay, I threatened to contact the BLM directly. I tried every tactic I could dream up—still no money.
When the debtor's attorney contacted me to cease and desist, I even worked with her to try to reach a settlement. Finally, I dropped the matter entirely, because I was becoming the kind of hit-man I don’t want to be. I put the case files in storage and they sat there for months, until my office manager suggested hiring a professional commercial collection agency. She said she had found one, and we gave it a try. The collector was willing to sue my client, and would foot the bill for the lawsuit. I thought we had nothing to lose, so went ahead.
The collector recovered the entire debt in monthly installments, and we paid him 50%, roughly $10,000. We put $10,000 into our bank account, and considered ourselves lucky.

January 9, 20—

Mickey O'Malley, Contracting Officer
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Procurement Branch
14008 West Colfax Avenue
Lakewood, Colorado 80125

Dear Mickey,

This is a follow-up to our phone call today.

Our firm delivered outplacement services to the Bureau of Land Management under a contract with Lincoln Management. Our agreement with them is attached. The service was delivered successfully, with excellent written evaluations by the participants.
I believe outplacement was specifically spelled out in the contract and paid for by the taxpayers. We cannot get Lincoln Management to pay us for our work.

As of December 29th, they owed us a balance of $22,022.01. Greater than $19,000 is more than 90-days past due. We began collection by sending monthly statements, then friendly telephone reminders, all to no avail. They will not return phone calls, e-mail messages, or any requests for payment. It's obvious they do not plan to pay us. That's why I'm coming to you for assistance.

Please review this case and then let me know how you'd like to proceed.

With best wishes,

William S. Frank

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William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.