Business Lesson #432: Take the Damn Money When it’s Offered

I work at a startup office some of the time and write the community newsletter. The people who work there are some of my favorite people to work with because there are no strings attached. No one is my boss and I'm no one's boss. We're all hustling. We all think about accounts receivable because cashflow is usually an issue. You can theoretically have a lot of cash coming but until it hits your bank account it's now yours.

I partnered with a few guys from an agency to work with bloggers. Main guy #1 said he could pay me now (up front) but I said we could wait until after the event. I should've taken it. He tried to persuade me to and I stupidly stalled. Instead I told him that I bill net 30 and kept working on our project. It was a project I undercharged for and worked way too hard on. Yes I was skeptical when I barely knew him and he essentially offered me a job. That was a shock because I didn't want a job and didn't know him very well. Nor did I know his business partner whom I was yet to meet but who had a lot of ideas on how things should go. He had a bright idea to harass bloggers to get them to do what we wanted. Not a wise way to do business with influencers. There really should not be threats involved! I almost walked out then. I wish I would have.

At the end of the project (which was a hard sell through and through), the partner said, “we only pay on results.” That's a new concept – because I don't work on results alone. The problem with results alone is that I don't have control of the sales process. They screw that up and we don't make anything. And that's pretty much what happened. Plus, there is a ton of up front work needed. The results weren't there. The landing page wouldn't convert. No one would believe me when I raised that concern immediately. 50 free product requests. 1 sale. ONE SALE (last I knew). I put my name behind the project with a live event and sponsored post campaign which I'd practically begged bloggers to attend. They were getting paid mostly on results too.

Thankfully the bloggers got paid because in over 10 years I've never stiffed a blogger. Even when the man I worked for years ago went to jail and one day the checks I'd sent bloggers all bounced. So did my $13k check that I'd written them their checks, right before Christmas. I'll never forget that! I went and got a job the very next week. Three months later everyone was paid but I never spoke to him again.

I always remember Marianne Williamson said. She lost $10k because she didn’t promote an event she put on that not many people knew about so didn't show up for. She was devastated and wondered how she'd ever recover financially or regain her reputation. Her dad said, “you can absorb this loss.” She could and did absorb the loss. I tell this to myself whenever I lose money – and we all lose money. Then I remind myself that they call it cash flow because it comes and goes like the tide or a stream. You can't create dams even when you're mad as hell about how something goes.

I learned that when the accountant of the startup where you work calls you to tell you to cash a check, don't wait. Go to the bank and cash the check. If the check is under $100, start looking for another job.

What did  do? I sent demand letters. Everyone passed the buck and second in charge man lied. So did the product owner. The second in charge lies with such charm…

My friend who is an attorney for influencers helped me see that being angry and taking them to court is already consuming too much time. They probably don't have money. Even if they do there are already settlements against one of them. A few weeks later I invest at least 6 hours with main guy in his next venture only to be told by email by his investor (not him) that they no longer needed my skill set. What a coward. I called someone else in the strategy meetings and they'd done the same to her. The demand letter was returned undelivered.

I remember my hippie neighbor who said “they did you a favor” whenever something went wrong. How annoying I thought. Really I just got screwed. It's taken me years to understand what he meant. Here's the favor: next time I follow my gut. I ask for payment up front or I don't do the work. It's an expensive reminder that I needed. I'm spoiled by clients who are referrals and have high integrity. Now I need to remember that next time I have doubts up front I'll say no.

Lesson Learned: Startups are a crap shoot. If someone at one offers you money never hesitate. If they offer money up front, don't hesitate to collect. Just take the damn money.

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