I was talking to a client the other day and she was tearing her hair out. She was about five years into running her business. She had got through the start-up phase but still things were tricky: Clients not paying on time, expecting things no-one had ever discussed or offered, freelancers being unreliable, staff off sick and a sales campaign that was out of sync with her ability to deliver. She was exhausted and stressed and using all her strength to hold it all together.
Know that fire-fighting feeling?
Her business had got severely out of balance – each emergency ‘wining’ and getting her attention instantly. The human side of her business was tripping her up. Customers, freelancers and staff. Time and money being sucked away as she fixed each individual problem and sorted out disputes. Time that could be used to develop the business.
She hadn’t had time to focus on looking at her client portfolio. As a result she had one really big client who was paying her very slowly.
She didn’t have time to properly supervise the freelancers and sub-contractors she paid so work was waiting for her to ‘sign off’ or having to go straight out to clients without a proper quality check.
And the cashflow was dire. She was having to borrow to pay her team while her slow paying client was paying ever more slowly.
Time to fix this?
My exhausted client had a classic situation. She was stuck in fire-fighting mode.
We had a quick chat and worked out that she had:
- no terms of trade/business
- no freelance contracts or staff contracts
- no automated credit control process
I’ve looked at more terms of trade, freelance contracts and employment contracts than most people do in a lifetime. The more chaos in the business the more likely these are to be absent, out of date, or simply cobbled together years ago from other people’s documents.
It is vital that you have simple clear agreements that align your customers, your freelancers and your staff to what you are trying to achieve.
If you are too busy and fighting too many fires, take a deep breath and talk to us.
Annabel Kaye can be reached on 020 3887 0500 (local rate call number) or firstname.lastname@example.org