And then, I pulled out the application form …
Many years ago, I worked in the North Queensland Branch Office of a major finance company. A very slow-paying borrower had gone missing. He was two months in arrears, had left his address, not turned up at work and owed us $8,000. A lot of money in those days. And, we had absolutely no idea where he was.
We did the usual checks, even asked his neighbours and workmates but all to no avail. And then, I pulled out the original application form and noticed two things
1 it was his birthday in two weeks time, and
2. he was divorced.
Now you and I both know that sometimes an ex-wife or husband can be an excellent source of knowledge when it comes to wanting to cause a bit of grief to the “ex”! So, I shot over to her house and found out that when this man travelled, he always had his family send any mail for him to the Post Office in whatever town he was in. (His birthday in 2 weeks, remember?)
(I feel you get where this is going.) We were in Cairns, almost at the very top of Australia so he could only really go south! We collected three stones, three pieces of cotton wool and three empty cigarette packets. Each stone was wrapped carefully inside the cotton wool, which, in turn, was put inside a cigarette packet.
The three cigarette packets, each containing a padded stone, were then nicely wrapped in birthday paper and sent by Registered Mail to 3 Post Offices. One in Ayr, one in Townsville and the other in Rockhampton – all being places south of Cairns. (Note: he had to sign to receive his ‘present’ and there was nothing on it to show that we’d sent it)
One week later he signed for one of his “birthday presents” in Townsville. We set a Collection Agency on to him and shortly afterwards they found out that he was staying in a local motel and we had our man.
* Gather as much information as you can in the honeymoon period of your commercial relationship – preferably at the very beginning.
* Be creative.
* Start Everything Early.
Good account management is about having as much information about your account customer as you can … and, at times, being creative. And the best time to get information is usually at the very start of your business relationship, before any credit is given. (Use a credit application form or whatever initial paperwork you may have to get this.)