I get this question a lot: “What do you do if you land a whale and they treat you badly–like implementing a 90 – 120 days payment cycle?”
Many small business owners have had this experience with a whale or two in their history–a much bigger than usual account with a much bigger customer. It’s especially true for women owned businesses that go after government contracts or work as subcontractors to the prime.
Some whales are killer whales–so called because they will kill even their own kind. They know they are whales and behave like bullies. They know that even though you have a contract, you can’t realistically afford to enforce it. Landing a killer whale can literally kill a small company.
What can you do? Best strategy–learn what you need to know up front.
- Look for signs of a killer whale long before you ink a contract. How do they treat you through the buying process? Are they open and above-board? Do you feel like a valued associate? Will they answer questions directly and explicitly? If you are uncomfortable before you sign, bet your life it can only get worse
- What are the terms of the contract? Is it all designed to protect them or is it a mutually beneficial agreement?
- Do you like these people? Has your CEO met with the CFO to discuss invoicing requirements and accounts receivable? Have they agreed to your standard terms for billable expenses, down payments, etc.?
- Have you asked all of your questions? If the contract is strict on your delivery yet vague on the terms of payment, are they willing to negotiate?
- Can you structure your deal in stages such that you can cancel if during the first stage you are unsatisfied with how they do business?
Did you ever land a killer whale? Would love to hear about it.