I watch the television series, “Leverage” when I can. It’s the good,bad guys against the really bad guys; fun action. The “Leverage” team gives leverage to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the “power” and/or resources. The episodes end with the “little guys” winning, thanks to their “leverage” team. When I think of leverage I also think about recourse and how they tie together.
In the legal system you have leverage with a pre-nup agreement, or a contract, or a will, or a handshake in some instances. As a sole proprietor, I have a short contract for my clients that they sign agreeing to my terms. You sign agreements/contracts for a car or house loan: your signature is your “voice” and it’s meant to tie you and them, or me and them to the terms. Have any of you ever been late on a credit card payment? You signed an agreement saying you’d pay monthly or in full, and interest. If you don’t, then some of you may have the phone and legal goons on your back; they have no mercy. They have your signature as recourse either legally or other. (Why do the “goons” go after a small claim of $500 the same way to go after a large claim of $50,000? Baffles my mind. I guess money is money for the credit card companies.)
Now, if you don’t have a contract, but a verbal agreement, and someone owes you money and won’t pay, then you have little, if no leverage or recourse. What do you do? There’s not a legal arena that cares that he said/she said, they said/I said. Where do you go? How can you empower the person to understand and make good their commitment to pay you? It’s indeed a reflection on them personally that they ignore their responsibility. Do they care? Do they set a bad example on their children too? Are they as blatantly rude at home as they are at the office? Do they lie to their clients?
I feel that what you do professionally rubs off on what you do personally, and vice versa. I admit, I haven’t always been on the up-and-up with credit card payments and I’ve paid the price. But if I owe a vendor money, contract or no, I pay him/her. As a sole proprietor, a $650 balance due makes a difference in my world. It may seem small to some, but it’s not completely about the money; it’s about the commitment, responsibility, and truth-in-word promise.
I have no recourse, no leverage on getting the $650 from my old client, but it amazes me that he made the verbal agreement, and wrote it on e-mail, and yet has done nothing for over 45 days. Do I just “let it go,” let him off the hook? I still hope that he has some sort of personal decency, if not professional courtesy and obligation to at least return my phone calls, send me an e-mail or send me a note to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t pay you right now. What can I do to make amends?” Nothing. He’s in my professional void and it hurts.
The business community is small. It’s smaller than it used to be because of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. When you “screw” someone, the word gets around and your reputation may fall from grace. I hope that what I do professionally is a mirror of my value system and the honesty that my parents imbued upon me growing up. I uphold their love and parenting when I do what I know is right. They would be proud of me.
My client has daughters and I hope they don’t know that their parent is less than what s/he appears.
Where do I go from here? What leverage or recourse do I have?