“A Primer on Collecting Late Payments, Part 2"
The first general rule on collecting late payments was about overall professionalism and communication style. The second point naturally follows from the first one and is a critical elaboration of it.
Second general rule: Payout and delivery, both amounts and due dates are a critical part of the agreement. Make sure they are stated in writing in advance.
Be aware that it is bad practice to make any business agreement otherwise. In many cases it may be appropriate to add provisions to the agreement for late payment, which may even include late payment penalties or collection charges. It is a good idea to tie the price very specifically to the payout, payment terms and deadlines. For example:
* A payment of USD $1,000 will be made by the buyer on 5 March 2012.
* This amount represents a 20% discount off the regular price of USD $1,250.
* Discount prices are no longer valid for payments made later than 10 working days after the due date.
In the above example, I've stated the late payment penalty as a discount because it sounds friendlier and more professional. Depending upon the circumstances your mileage may vary with this approach, but all else being equal you are better off with a diplomatic approach that shows goodwill and diplomacy rather than trying to muscle and beat your customer into submission. Human nature being what it is, keeping the atmosphere friendly tends to be good for your cash flow.
A Primer on Collecting Late Payments, Part 3
In my previous two posts on collecting late payments from customers and business partners I explained what I called the first and the second general rule to getting your money. If you haven't read them yet, and you are interested in getting better in this area, take a quick look and see whether you think following these guidelines can dramatically improve your results. In my experience, they can.
Just to paraphrase/summarize:
* Rule one emphasizes the overall importance of professionalism and good communication.
* Rule two stresses the value of making the payout and due dates a critical part of your formal agreement with the customer.
While I can't speak to the terms of our deal with ShareThis, I'll use the experience to walk you through the general framework of a deal process, so you understand the multiple steps involved. What I'm going to share is not a reflection of how our deal went down -- I'm pulling from various deals I'm personally familiar with or from accounts I've heard from other entrepreneurs who have also sold.
The first thing I want to highlight is the stress that a deal puts on a startup. Uncertainty kills innovation, and for that reason, if you think you want to sell, it's critical that you get the process done super quickly. Thirty days from start to close is an ideal (although likely impossible) goal to shoot for. Ninety days is a reasonable and achievable goal.
It's also likely that the acquiring company won't be in as much of a hurry as you are: Getting the deal done is likely a secondary priority for them as compared to running their main business. For the startup, it defines the future of the company -- or at least, it's one major possible outcome with huge implications for the startup. There are a few exceptions on the acquiring side -- for example, Facebook is known for moving blazingly fast in deals as a part of its strategy to keep startups it's interested in from being scooped by other acquirers. As I assemble best practices for getting deals done, speed is at the very top of my list.
Next, from the startup's perspective, is evaluating alternatives. This is where someone like Ezra is invaluable. As I mentioned in this post, Ezra Roizen is a banker, but he's different from all the others I've met. Ezra is a scrappy "get it done" deal magician with a small team and a huge rolodex. He can get a temperature read from someone (usually either the CEO or a board member) at any potential acquiring company you'd like to speak to. It'll be up to you to decide what companies you want to target, and then Ezra can take it from there.