Not long after I arrived in Tasmania I was doing repeat jobs for a business near Margate.
They were a reasonable size business with more than a few employees but times were tough.
They were struggling to get enough work to keep their team busy and to pay them.
There was a lot wrong with their IT.
I regularly pointed out the risks they were taking and regularly they did nothing because they had no money.
I was there to fight fires, fix the problem at hand, and get them up and running again.
That's OK. I totally understand.
However, it is my job to keep customers abreast of the risks they are taking. What they do with that information is their choice.
I regularly gave them discounts because I felt bad for them and their team. The more I got paid the less their workers would get paid. It was that tight for quite some time.
And that's OK too, that was my choice. I didn't see it as investing in the future or building good will. It was just what I could afford to do at the time...but, in hindsight I shouldn't have.
I regularly chased and chased them for payment months after they were due...but I did it carefully and I knew why they weren't paying...but they eventually paid.
And that's kind-of OK. It was my choice to keep doing work for them knowing their limited ability to pay. But I wanted the business to keep going...but, in hindsight, I shouldn't have.
After years of this...and that's not an exageration...the tide turned for them. Business started getting good.
Big jobs came in and with it the money.
They started looking after their team properly and even expanding the business.
Great news, right?!
Well, for them - yes, but for me - NO.
You see, without any warning or communication whatsoever, I get a call from their "new IT guy".
This guy had the temerity to ask me for help and information about this customer's systems.
This guy wanted to discuss plugging the gaps in risk that I'd pointed out to them over the years.
I was supposed to cough up all this information and more free of charge.
This surprised me because this new IT guy wasn't my customer so why should he get free information? (Privacy laws aside). ...information designed to remove me from that customer. It also surprised me because my customer and I had a good relationship. It had been fun and they were basically nice people...or so it seemed. They even had a nickname for me. If that isn't Aussie love I don't know what is.
While I didn't expect it, I thought that my generosity and patience would be remembered. It wasn't...or it was conveniently put to one side.
I get that people and businesses move on and have needs that perhaps I can't meet.
That's fine. My ego isn't fragile or big enough to think that I have the asnwers to everything.
I just would have liked some honesty and courtesy in return.
So these days the way a customer pays their bill is a test.
Especially so for their first bill, but every bill and the resulting payment are carefully monitored for potential lack of integrity or courtesy.
I sacked this customer and I have sacked other customers for similar behaviour.
In some cases the amounts of money in question have appeared trivial, but better over a trivial amount than a painful amount.
These customers get blocked and any data I may be holding (against my better judgement and at their request) is immediately deleted.
Per my previous post on this subject, I make sure none of my friends or business colleagues fall victim either.
I don't defame anyone but the facts and events are laid bare for individual assessment.
This was a lesson I had already learnt but let slide.
The new lesson was, "don't let learnt lessons slide".
I can't take on other people's problems and NOT expect to be let down. People will always look after themselves when it comes down to a decison.
So if you find my rapid invoicing and presistance in chasing payment annoying, you (kinda) know who to blame - previous bad customers.