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Background: I work for a small company that is struggling through an economic downturn. Due to this bills are consistently being paid 60-120 days past due. This has meant some of our vendors have discontinued services until we pay up to last billing cycle or pay in full.

In many cases as a manager I find out we haven't paid our bill when I call a vendor either inquiring why our services aren't working or when I am asking support questions for example.

Our owner pays our bills so this is not something I can control. Also, we do not have any policy around how to communicate to venders or otherwise. This is a more general management question looking for insight.

Question: Once a vendor says we are past due (either in email or on the phone), is it more professional to explain the situation or apologize and let them know you will contact your AP person? On a personal level it feels embarrassing and I am not sure if I should be apologizing on behalf of my company and/or myself? Does this speak negatively on my integrity in the eyes of the vendor or is this just a common enough issue in business that its understood implicitly?

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    Advice: If a company isn't paying its bilks, payroll's next to go. If you haven't already started job hunting, do so or you're going to get dragged down with them. – keshlam Feb 6 '16 at 0:11
  • (Obviously, I meant "bills" ... but that's a nice little Freudian slip. A company that will bilk its suppliers will bilk its employees.) – keshlam Feb 7 '16 at 2:47
  • @keshlam I thought you would like to know that the company has since gone through 4 rounds of layoffs... – Shawn Aug 17 '16 at 5:15
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I've been on both sides of this call.

When I was calling for outage support for my clients, and found out they were shut off due to non-payment. I would just say, "Thank you. Let me go speak with accounting." At that point, I would not make another call to the vendor until accounting had advised me their account was now current.

When we (the company I'm at now) have delinquent customers call for service, I just tell them that there is a flag on their file to talk to accounting, even though I know what's going on. If they're just staff, I actually feel sorry for them, because they were told to call us for service and I know this is causing headaches for them. If they're the principals, I just let accounting deal with it, and wait for accounting to let me know when to start service, again.

Don't get further down in the weeds with them than you have to.

As far as your personal integrity - you'll only smear that if you start lying to vendors about whether it's been paid or not, whether it will be paid or not, etc. Just deal with the situation as honestly and professionally as possible, and don't get upset with them. They know you're not writing the checks.

And, as jimm101 said, make tracks as soon as you can. Pretty soon YOU'LL be the one wondering why you haven't been paid.

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  • Thanks for the edit, @kevincline. I have a mental block on that one, for some reason. – Wesley Long Feb 7 '16 at 1:37
  • This answer gives not only a good way to handle this situation but also gives insight into how vendors look at the situation. This answer is the accepted one. – Shawn Feb 9 '16 at 19:58
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Solution: Get your resume together and leave. Otherwise, you'll be receiving the same calls at home about your heating bill. You are likely to need to find a job soon anyway, this can't last very long.

Your company is failing. You professional reputation will be impacted--you will be associated with the place that doesn't pay its bills. Your future employer is being asked to hire someone who is associated with a place that does not pay its bills.

You will lose appeal getting a new job if you aren't employed. You will lose leverage getting a good salary if you aren't employed.

Get out now. Those calls are the least of your worries.

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    ... I agree with this completely, but it is answering a different question than what was asked: "how to communicate with vendors when your company has no money..." – enderland Feb 6 '16 at 1:16
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    @enderland Don't. The job is over. – jimm101 Feb 6 '16 at 1:29
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Let's turn it around. A customer of you had not paid for 120 day. Boss told you to cut off service. You tell customer they are cut off. Do want to hear why or sorry? No! It is the customer's problem to clear their account accounts receivable.

Does the guy cutting off your power for non-payment want to hear why you can't pay the bill or your apology.

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    Bingo. You're asking how to accomplish what, frankly, should be an impossible task. If you called them without knowing, about ghe only thing you can say is "oops, nobody told me, I apologise for wasting your time and I'll make sure the boss knows there's a payment problem" If you do know, you have no businesx calling unless it's to arrange payment. – keshlam Feb 6 '16 at 0:09

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