Receivables Management in the time of COVID-19

by: Tim Paulsen

Bio at end of article

They have never needed us more.

The pandemic of COVID-19 not only threatens our individual health, but that of the organizations, both large and small, where many of us work. The negotiations and friction taking place in the United States at the time of writing this article between the Republicans want to focus on business and the Democrats on the worker. To a degree, they are both right and I expect they’ll sort it out before too long.

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The very best of you!

Perhaps we are not able to perform our usual tasks this week or the next, but we will be called upon soon enough to be in contact with our customers, an individual, a small business owner or the accounts payable department of a larger organization – to arrange payment of a delinquent account and to negotiate.

They don’t need the best of us to contact a customer who has money and is willing to pay. In the past, we have been called upon to speak to customers who are facing a challenge or difficult situation, loss of a job or customers, a marital breakup, new products on the market from a competitor that may put them out of business – the list goes on.

Yet I believe we will agree that we have never had to face a situation like the one now, COVID-19. Some of our customers, perhaps even our own firm, may not survive the crisis. We believe in going down swinging and with a smile (no point in losing our sense of humor), but let’s be candid and not avoid the facts.

To survive or at the very least go down swinging, will require the very best of us. Maybe you have been good at receivables management and communication in the past – but good, just won’t cut it anymore.

Some good news? You’re not alone! There are a lot of us out in the world facing the same challenges and this is the time to improve your knowledge and skills. It could be books, webinars and much more. Perhaps you’re at home with a few extra hours this week to study? Be selective. Time is not only valuable; it is of the essence. Some of the programs may involve an investment from your firm, others are much less expensive and there is a lot that is free. No excuses.

You first!

Safety first for you and your family. The advice when you are on an airline flight is that if the oxygen masks drop down, put yours on first before helping a child or anyone with you who needs assistance. It is not being selfish. You won’t be good to anyone if you don’t look after yourself first. Same applies here. You won’t be able to help your organization if you or a member of your family is taken ill.

By now, we know the drill for isolation, social distancing and washing our hands. There may be more advice that will be helpful. Pay attention but don’t panic.

Research

They say if you take one thing, it is plagiarism. Take a lot and it’s research! Don’t be afraid to take ideas from other people and organizations. Mind you, claiming them as your own is a different story.

As an example, some of the following is ‘researched’ from an article by Stanley McChrystal is a former Army general and the founder of the McChrystal Group. Chris Fussell is a former Navy SEAL and the president of the McChrystal Group.

Focus:

We didn’t ask to be dropped into the challenge of collecting during the time of COVID-19, yet, if history shows us one thing, it is that our greatest leaders emerge from the darkest moments. There is a call to be visible with our plans, maintain compassion for our team as well as customers.

Don’t wait:

There has been too much of this already in too many countries. The virus is not going to go away, nor the challenges of receivables management. What are we going to be able to offer to our customers, how will we approach, have we listed all the reasons something may not be paid ‘because of COVID’ and potential solutions?

It is a perfect storm like no other, start taking those first steps of a marathon right now.

Be straight:

With your team and your customers. There are deals you can make and some you can’t. It is going to be uncomfortable. Sometimes very much so, but you don’t do anyone a favour by denying reality.

Paradox of the War Years:

Canadian Barry Broadfoot is the author of ‘Six War Years’, an excellent anthology of the memories of Canadians during World War II. Some stories are a few pages and others just a few paragraphs. It covers all facets of the war from front lines to workers in factories and even the young man who delivers telegrams and calls upon neighbors before he takes that long walk up a sidewalk.

If you have some time on your ‘washed’ hands, I recommend the book.

I seem to recall that Barry noticed one thing from many people he interviewed. They seemed to say, perhaps with a bit of guilt, ‘Tough times, no doubt about it and I lost some friends…but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”.

We may have been a bit jealous, those of us who are younger, with the stories and camaraderie from our parents and grandparents. But we are in our own war now and we are going to have some great stories to share in the future. (Our turn to bore the grandkids.)

Granted, having to board a troop ship or kiss a spouse goodbye for what could be several years, maybe forever is not the same as having to wash our hands and sit on the couch and watch Netflix. But we and the organizations we work for are in a war with COVID-19 and if not now, next week or soon, we will be  called upon to launch ourselves off the couch and ‘take that hill’.

Winston Churchill, British leader during World War II said of his time as a young man in combat, ‘There is nothing quite as exhilarating as someone shooting at you – and missing!”

The missing part is important.

Hoping the Virus will miss you and if it doesn’t that you manage to wrestle it to the ground. (Wrestle it hell, beat the living crap out of it!)

Until then, you’re not alone. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

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Who is Tim Paulsen?

He is the author of ‘Paid in Full’ and ‘Sex, Lies & Negotiation Techniques’, and the creative force behind ‘SAGE – The Excuse Terminator’. Tim is the founder and Managing Director of ICPC (International Centre for Professional Collections).

Located in Cobourg, Ontario, he has delivered highly rated training programs and consulted with clients in 25 countries including: Canada, United States, China, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Kuwait, Lebanon, Ghana, South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, The Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan and Brunei.