Credit Control.  No, bear with me, this gets interesting.  This is the dullest blog subject ever, surely?  Until, that is, you are waiting interminably for some tight-arsed penny pinching client to cough up money that has been promised for months.  Then it gets absolutely vital. Worse still, when they outright refuse to pay, and dispute that the bill is even due.

In recruitment, as in all other business sectors, this is always a touchy subject, perhaps especially as we sell information and service. Luckily I’ve only rarely had to get legal with anyone, and those cases have always been settled, virtually on the steps of the court.  There was one instance however, which bears retelling.

In 2000, at the height of the DotCom bubble, a business network called First Tuesday was all the rage.  No-one actually owned it initially, but Julie Meyer somehow managed to sell it for £33m. (Bill Boorman take note).  The Glasgow chapter of FT was run by a company called Icosmart.  I attended these events, and was on nodding terms with the owner Gordon.  He asked me to recruit an Office Manager for his company, which one of my recruiters duly did.  The problem arose when he received our invoice.  He was more than happy with his new employee and our service, but stated that he was under the impression that this was a favour, as we “were friends”.  He offered to pay £500, and was surprised at my insistence on the bill being paid in full.  Neither of us would budge, and legal letters didn’t help.

Now I’m not shy when it comes to pursuing a debt, so I decided to ask him for the money as publicly as possible.  I printed up the T-Shirt you see above, and attended the next First Tuesday event, accompanied by a journalist from the local business newspaper.  I was quite chuffed when I attracted much attention, in the form of chatter, back-slaps and handshakes.  Then Gordon himself appeared, mortified (as he should be) and grabbing the T-shirt, pushed me into a side room. “This has to be the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen!” he uttered, poking me in the chest.  “And what do you call not paying your bills then?” I replied.

Suffice to say, he settled the invoice the next day.

Now I’ll admit this was a little extreme, to embarrass a man at his own event, but the situation did call for it.  I’d only ever recommend this measure when you have no intention of ever looking for repeat business.

We haven’t kept in touch.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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