Integrity Matters
January 15, 2003

Don't get into the habit of paying your monthly bills late

Question: (E-020) Last month a substantial number of my clients didn’t pay their bills on time. Quite a few do so on a regular basis; they must think it’s alright to let it ride as they see fit. I can’t afford to cut them loose, and I can’t afford to be “the bank,” either. How can I guide my clients towards acting with more integrity in their financial transactions with my Company?

Response: When customers/clients pay late, you may want to assess the situation utilizing these assumptions.

Assuming that you are providing excellent services/products and your customers are confirming their satisfaction with all aspects of what you are delivering to them (high quality, superior price-value, along with mutual respect and appreciation) –

Assuming that you wish to continue working with those “late paying” clients if they would pay as agreed –

Assuming you are willing to risk losing any or all of them if they continue to treat you poorly by failure to meet their part of the agreement, i.e. to pay you on time –

Assuming that you can speak forthrightly to those individuals for whom and with whom you have been providing services –

Assuming that they will respect legitimate concerns that you would share with them related to the difficulties their tardy payments are causing you—


  • Set a time to meet with each troublesome client face-to-face to confirm your understanding of their thinking regarding not paying you on time.
  • Consider asking each “late-payer” if there is any aspect of your working relationship that is not meeting or exceeding their expectations.
  • Tell them you are beginning to feel that, despite your efforts to deliver to them the very best you could, they must be dissatisfied with some or all of your work or have lost respect for you and/or your services.
  • Explain that you cannot survive long in business if you fail to receive payment from customers, as agreed, for your delivery of goods and services to them.
  • Confirm that you would like to retain your working relationship with them but can only proceed if the integrity of the relationship goes both ways: timely and quality services are followed with timely payments.

Remember: INTEGRITY IS THE GLUE OF SOCIETY. Integrity sustains relationships with mutual respect and treats each member of the transaction, whether personally or professionally, as a partner. Partnerships apply to each and every significant relationship.

  • Finally, if clients do not meet their agreements, and thereby respect high quality suppliers, bid them farewell. The time you spend on bad-faith clients could have been spent developing and working with new clients who will pay on time.

JIM BRACHER is founder of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership in Monterey. His column, "Integrity Matters," appears Wednesday on the Business page. Readers are invited to submit questions on business-related ethics and values. Please write in care of INTEGRITY to The center's Web site is

Letter to the Editor, published February 11, 2003:

I would like to express my appreciation for Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters column, to give your newspaper credit for having the backbone to publish it, and to relate two distinct ways it has made a difference in my business and personal life.

First, the column about a Receivables problem was right on the mark. I have that in a prominent place on my desk, and I have already referred to it as a blueprint for handling this type of customer issue. Raising a Client's awareness in the manner Mr. Bracher suggests has already resulted in better response from, and ultimately better relationships with my customers.

Secondly, on a more personal note, I am pelted with sales calls on a daily (and NIGHTLY) basis. Based on a shifted focus towards integrity (due in no small part to reading Mr. Bracher's column), I asked a long distance rep if she could fax me a list of social causes her company contributes to. She hung up on me. The response was proof enough that my question was the right one to determine what kind of company I was dealing with.

To close, thank you again for helping helping to remind us all that there are deeper, more meaningful values by which we may live and work.

Garm Beall
Woodland Hills, California

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