Bad debts

One of the (few) drawbacks of what I do is that when something goes wrong it tends to go spectacularly wrong. Buying homes for millions means that the fees I earn can be large but being a one man band also means that when they don’t get paid the impact can be significant.

The law requires me to confirm my terms of business in writing to my clients but I don’t ask for them to sign them. My view has always been that if I don’t get paid I will have mis-judged something or someone. Either I have not delivered what I gave the impression I would or I have mis-judged the client and they are a shit! I think that commercial divorce should be easy and I don’t want either me or my client to be spending money on lawyers if I am not delivering what my client wants. If they turn out to be using me then I appreciate the lesson and move on.

Fine words, an admirable if naive way to behave you might say and of course occasionally I do get bitten. Over a year ago I helped a client into a new home in Regents Park, she is (she tells me) very happy with it but I’ve been chasing payment of a £60k fee for over a year. Her Majesties Revenue and Customs have been more than patient but they take a dim view of those foolish enough to use tax receipts as working capital and one day soon they will have had enough.

An IVA or worse bankruptcy would be awful but as many small businesses know, bad debt can bring even the best firm to it’s knees. I’m not planning to become an accountant although some accountancy skills would have been helpful over the years and I do expect to resolve it all in due course but in the meantime I’m stuffed! Eventually I may actually get paid but the frustration it causes now, the sleepless nights and the irritation all leave me feeling exhausted and a little upset. 2014 could be an interesting year although perhaps not for the reasons I would hope.

Still, onwards and upwards. “Tomorrow” as they say “will be another day”. I have fine friends, loyal clients (with one exception!) and a network of contacts who will no doubt laugh just before they then help. There are many in a far worse position than I but please forgive me over the coming weeks if on occasion I’m not my usual jolly self.