Casting a reality check on real-world conundrums
Too Close for Comfort
I set clear boundaries with
my clients so we do not become
close friends while we are in a
coaching relationship. This was a
challenge for me at first because
people bond with me quickly.
For the health of the business
relationship, it is imperative to
learn how to set appropriate
boundaries to avoid muddying
the financial waters.
“I tell the client I’m sorry
for their situation and I wish
them the best of luck. This
would only happen to me
in a coaching agreement in
which I’ve allowed a client
a payment plan. Most of my
coaching clients pay the full
fee upfront. I’d rather preserve
the relationship than go after a
client who has no money!”
Santa Fe, N. M.
I would ask the client
how failing to honor an
agreement is showing up in
other ways in his life. I can’t
be the only person affected
by his behavior. I would try to
work out a payment plan with
him, but I would not continue
doing business with him. You
can insist on payment up front
if your client has been late
with payments in the past.
“One of your clients has become a close
friend. Due to cash-flow issues, he cannot
afford to pay you despite your signed
agreement. What would you do?”
“Fortunately, this happened to me only once many years
ago. I did the job because I was promised payment later when
the paperwork was signed. Alas, I was never paid. Now, I have a
cancellation fee. If this happened today, I would offer to barter.
Would the client provide a video opportunity, session photos,
referrals, or product endorsements?“
If the client truly is a
friend, find a way to work it out.
Friends owe each other lots of
things, including money from
time to time. The reason you
are friends will overcome the
issue, or you will simply become
strangers across a courtroom,
which is no fun at all.
—Alan Stevens, FPSA, PSAE
—Susan Gingras Fitzell
“I find a way to do the job
because I signed the contract,
too. Perhaps the client can
compensate me in other ways,
such as providing PR or giving
referrals. If clients are upfront,
I will do my best to help them
build their businesses.”
If I had not performed the work, I would negotiate a win-
win. If I had done the work and the client was unable to pay due
to cash-flow issues, it is a matter of timing. I would negotiate a
payment plan for my friend/client. The client’s company either
will recover and likely reward me for being gracious when
business was down, or it will go out of business and my friend
will move on to another company and likely hire me again. This
is smart business.
Scott “Q” Marcus posed the dilemma and collected the responses for this column.
—Mary C. Kelly
—Brian Walter, CSP
What Would You Do? is a regular column
that presents a real-life dilemma faced
by professional speakers. NSA members
are encouraged to submit a dilemma
for possible discussion in this column.
Please submit dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org. NSA reserves the right to
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dilemmas will be anonymously attributed. Opinions expressed are those of
the individual respondents, not NSA.