Staying Profitable Means Getting Paid

Retail bankruptcies over the last 12 months are at near-recession levels. Included are such well-known brands as Payless, BCBG and PacSun. These have been accompanied by numerous store closures by JC Penneys, Macy’s and K-Mart/Sears, to cite just a few.

More concerning for sweeping contractors are their retail customers that are on the brink of disaster — when they have no way of knowing that fact. All they see is a lengthening of timeframe on payments. The question is: How long should a contractor continue to sweep a property when payment hasn’t been received in a timely fashion?

The answer varies by a variety of factors, including contract language, length of service, personal relationship with managers and more. However, there are some guidelines to consider. When you contact late-paying clients and receive a promise to pay, make sure you document any such agreements. If you got the information in-person or via the telephone, either ask for an email confirming the payment plan/timeframe or generate one yourself.

If the latter, it should be in the form of “Thank you for your agreement to pay your invoice in such and such a manner,” spelling out the details of the arrangement. At the end, include a sentence on the order of “If the above isn’t your recollection of our agreement, please let me know right away.” Make your message friendly but concise.

Consider filing a Mechanics Lien and/or try using the Internet to check on a company’s current reputation. Develop better contract language for future work, with clauses that spell out what your rights are concerning late or non-payment for services.

At the World Sweeping Association, we even maintain an informational database of all the third party vendors and invite our members to add to the information. We also share payment stories of note among members in our twice-monthly “WSA Member Update” email. Current information and documentation, coupled with decent contracts, are keys to keeping your payment stream flowing.