April’s Challenge: What Would You Do?
Six decades ago, an advertising expert and a printer created the million dollar concept of selling brand loyalty, via coupons compiled in a book, that provided savings for an entire year. These books were sold to the public from local schools, charities, and places of worship by a dedicated sales force that pledged a percentage of the profits back to the communities for positive social programs. That was the era of the Green Stamps collection for product redemption… Just like airline mileage today!
Now, I am certain many of you are thinking this puzzle will be about the second generation curse but you would be wrong. Now here is the challenge —
The Printer’s invoices were always paid, on average, between 45-60 days which suddenly and dramatically changed to NEVER. The customer made promises that failed to materialize even though the Printer continued to provide additional books for sale. The on-going, unpaid production which represented approximately 60% of the Printer’s business created a cash flow melt down. The sudden loss of cash flow, while carrying sizable unpaid accounts receivables, is the perfect recipe for a catastrophic collapse in any business.
When the Printer called PICB for advice the mid-six figure debt was 6 months past due -He was rightfully worried about the future of his company. The public records revealed that the Book business had been sold to a venture capital group at about the same time as invoice payments stopped, and as we were discussing his options the Mailman delivered the bankruptcy notice.
The timeline and records clearly revealed that the VC’s agenda was to steal profits while they could. Leaving all the creditors as collateral damage is simply a calculated risk as most creditors would not spend substantial money suing an inactive, asset-less company in order to prove fraud in a post-bankruptcy case. What would be gained from doing so?
So what would you do to avoid this scenario?
Just a quick happy ending – the Printer survived the turmoil and thrives again today while operating in the black – he directed his passion and perseverance to gaining new customers, focusing on new commodities, and diversification. He rebuilt the family business – and he, like his father, is a success!
SO… WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO SOLVE THIS FISHY TALE?
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We would have done continued due diligence on the client’s credit and history utilizing PICB’s services and would have kept the receivables tight below 45 days at most. Also an iron clad contract with personal guarantees/promissory note with the original client would have been required. Or a direct share of the incoming sales revenue form the onset set of the program.
45 – 60 days is not an uncommon timeline. Once 67 days pass, diligent phone calls and past due notices must happen. After 75 days explain to the powers that be that your creditors will cut you off (real or not) and without payment the printing will need to cease. It is not just the immediate hit, but why let the snow ball continue to roll. 84 days requires proper collection help from outside services. The easiest way to get the ball rolling is to discuss terms up front, and if the terms are uncomfortable a personal guarantee would need to be required, or up front payment moving forward. Once a lawsuit is filed the chances of ongoing relationship may dwindle. A few thousand dollars is one thing, but adding to that debt will put you under. I had a similar situation with a few bounced checks, then i increased my prices to cover the financing. I then sued. I won judgement and had to wait until the owner wanted to sell. The grand total when I told them to look elsewhere was $13k. I actually received $10k from the new owner to be. This covered my costs with a profit and allowed me to pay for services rendered by collections. The next time the customer was in a pickle, he had to pony up with cash up front. Lesson learned. I suspect someone may recall max.