Corrections or additions?
Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January
5, 2000. All rights reserved.
Good Customers But Bad Payers: Steve Douglass
Faithful customers? Or repeat offenders? If at the end
of the day, your customers don’t pay, they may be bleeding your
slowly. Over-extending credit is a mistake that many small business
owners make, says Steve Douglass, district sales manager for
ABC Companies, a commercial collection agency located in Pequea,
"If a customer thinks that they can get away without paying, they
will," he says. "Generally they’ve ordered more products from
the business that they already owe. If they need that product or
and they aren’t being pressed for payment, they’ll keep coming
Entrepreneurs permit the next sale and "it’s a vicious cycle,"
says Douglass, who speaks on "Coping with Customers Who Don’t
Pay," on Wednesday, January 19, at 7:45 a.m. at the Nassau Inn.
Call the Princeton Chamber: 609-520-1776. Cost: $21.
The danger in this: as debt ages, says Douglass, the chance of
the full amount goes down exponentially. According to the Commercial
Law League of America, a commercial collection agency, a business
owner is likely to collect only 72 cents on a debt of $1 after 90
days. After 6 months, the business owner will probably only see 50
cents of that original $1.
Douglass spent 20 years in receivable management with Chase Manhattan,
overseeing a $40 million portfolio, before moving to ABC Companies,
a 70-year-old commercial collections organization with 200 affiliates.
A native of Elmira, New York, Douglass received a BS in engineering
from Corning College, Class of 1970, and then attended the American
Institute of Banking.
Small business owners don’t always demonstrate the business acumen
necessary to create consistent credit policies and chase down debts.
"When a customer applies for credit, they’re naturally thinking
`I’ve got another customer,’" he says.
The numbers tell a different story: "If a business operates at
a net profit of 3 percent," says Douglass, "to offset an
loss of $50 they have to make an additional sale of over $1,600.
people don’t see that. They say, how can I generate more revenue and
therefore they go for the sale."
Even small businesses need credit and risk analysis, says Douglass:
over the receivables and determine what your temperature is for
he says, "and how much is an average credit line for your
The customers that represent over 5 or 10 percent of your profits
— those you might be willing to take some loss on."
has to go with the first invoice," he says. "If you’re trying
to play catch up, you’re losing time and money."
outsource to an agency like his own.
that they can’t do it all themselves," he says. "Everyone
is trying to do more with less, even the small business."
The pen is mightier than the sword — if you know
how to wield it. Karin Steinhaus of Educational Testing Service
can show people how language can create new, and often surprising,
business alliances. "The big payoff is when you enlist the aid
of somebody who would otherwise be a block to getting your job
says Steinhaus, who speaks to the Institute of Management Accountants
on "Effective Business Communication" on Wednesday, January
12, at 6 p.m. at Good Time Charlie’s. Call 609-520-1188. Cost: $24.
"Accountants have a reputation for precision, accuracy, and
to detail," says Steinhaus. "I’ll help them invest these
(along with many other assets) to add value to their personal
portfolio. Everyone is guaranteed to profit."
These loaded words are no accident. Steinhaus, a longtime member of
Toastmasters, the public speaking social group, says that when you
learn what makes your audience tick, you discover "trigger"
words — words that people can relate to. "I’m operating on
a stereotype, but I want to use words that are likely to be familiar
to them and perk their attention," she says. "If I were
to a group of gardeners, I would use phrases like `plant the seeds’
and `make it blossom.’ If I were dealing with auto mechanics, I would
use different words."
Steinhaus grew up in Georgia. Her father, originally a cellist with
the Chicago Symphony, taught at Jacksonville University in Florida.
Steinhaus holds a BA in French from Oglethorpe College, Class of 1969,
and a masters in applied linguistics from Georgetown University. She
taught English for several years in France and Austria before becoming
a schoolteacher. Now she helps develop ETS’ test of English as a
For Steinhaus, communication is about creating common ground —
about diplomacy. "When people don’t feel they share a common
they may avoid each other, or even see each other as a threat,"
Even for casual meetings, know the people you are dealing with and
their communication style, says Steinhaus:
whom you will speak. What interests them, what motivates them?
can tap into things they’re already excited about to attract them
to what you have to say."
there are advantages and disadvantages to both. "Some people
much more easily to spoken communication and others to written
she says, "and it’s very good to figure out in what way that
is going to be receptive. We find ourselves in these situations in
an office — we submit an proposal, but the person in charge isn’t
going to want to read it because he or she is a speaker. There’s some
cues that people give you and you can guess whether a person is more
receptive to reading or speaking."
how you will know you have achieved it.
At the New Jersey Entrepreneurs Forum on Thursday,
13, at 6:30 p.m., John Freyhof of Venture Bank will address
"Venture Borrowing Techniques," and Richard A. Maloy
of Maloy Insurance at 228 Alexander Street, will discuss his new
venture. Maloy Insurance provides risk management and insurance
services and specializes in the information technology and life
industries (E-mail: email@example.com). The meeting will be held
at McAteer’s Restaurant, on Easton Avenue in Somerset. Cost: $45.
Who’s the most stressed person in New Jersey? Maybe
it’s your boss. Or maybe it’s you. If so, explain why in an essay
of 50 words or less and send it to the just-built spa at the Doral
Forrestal hotel, which is conducting a contest to find out who really
is the most stressed out person in the state. The winner gets a
of unwinding at the new spa, which offers aromatherapy, Swedish
facials, hydrotherapy, mud baths, and sea salt scrubs. The package
includes a hotel room with champagne, ergonomic chairs, and a feather
bed, plus breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two.
There’s a catch, however: the "most stressed" person has to
make time in their busy schedule to attend the contest announcement
ceremony on Thursday, January 27. Five finalists will attend, and
the four runners-up also get a prize, a day of spa treatment.
Entries are due by noon on Friday, January 21, and will be judged
by a panel of Doral employees (applicants must be 21 years or older).
For a complete list of rules, visit www.forestal.com/spacontest. Calls
are not being accepted. Fax to Renee Rudolph, 609-520-0728,
or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
On Wednesday, February 2, close to 300 students will
discover that there’s a link between education and success on the
job by "shadowing" professionals in area businesses. But
Trenton’s Promise, the organization sponsoring Groudhog Job Shadow
Day, needs more shadow companies — businesses that will open their
doors and appoint a company coordinator to provide students with a
brief orientation. A wide range of shadow experiences are sought:
clerical, manufacturing, sales, customer service, management, line
workers, trade, medical and technology professionals, to name a few.
To become a sponsor, call 609-984-7191.
The AARP’s Tax-Aide Program, the nation’s largest, free
volunteer-run tax counseling and preparation service, is seeking
tax counselors in Mercer County. The program provides free tax help
at area libraries and senior centers for low and moderate income tax
payers with special attention to those 60 and over.
No experience is necessary. People from all backgrounds are specially
trained by the IRS and The New Jersey State Income Tax Department.
Volunteers must agree to help assist taxpayers for a minimum of four
hours per week, from February 1 through April 5. Training classes
begin on January 13. Call 609-655-4358.
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