I get emotionally involved with Client's business. There. I said it. I can't help it. I get excited about their business as if it were mine, and I do everything I can to make sure what I contribute is the best it can possibly be. That means that I often do far more than I am paid for, and often means that what I have done isn't noticed. But I know. I can see where it matters, and I do it for the result rather than the recognition. I guess that is the difference between doing a job and doing something passionately. I take a lot of pride in what I do. Which is why it makes situations like I find myself in all the more frustrating. And many of you will turn around and say - get over it, it's just business. I've spent the last few weeks treating myself pretty harshly for being in this situation with a client. And then I realised - my conscience is clear. I worked on a Client's business for around 18 months, developing a really great and strong brand identity and defining their customers and tailoring their offering and how they go about it. The process was long and difficult as it can often be in an organisation where there has been no clear marketing path, and each step required numerous discussions, substantiations and explanations. I pushed through all of that - all the unnecessary delays, all the additional time and effort. I could see the finish line and the transformation was going to be brilliant. I made myself one of the team. Each payment was difficult to extract. But I kept at it - surely if the money keeps coming eventually, I can still continue. I battled to get the up front payments for suppliers - work was kept on hold on so many occasions while we all waited for them to decide to pay. And yes, it may seem obvious to all of you - there must be a cash flow management problem - a great big red flag. But again, if the marketing end improves, I told myself, the natural extension is that their money flow will be better. So, the brand is finally complete. And it is GOOD. The different product and services have been properly structured to appeal and be of value to the right customers. The web copy has been written, the brief for a new website done. The business card designed, the sales process and opportunities have been devised and the team is starting to gain momentum in understanding and applying the new ideas. Suddenly, the working agreement is drawing to a close, and happily, the Client's team, suppliers and I are informed that JupiterJasper will continue in the role of marketing support for their business - rolling out the new look, messages to all the marketing requirements. On the basis of a continuing relationship and trust, the work begins - defining the best use of budget, discussing value with suppliers, and completing all of their additional stationery to get the ball rolling. Suddenly there is talk of a contract and unspecified payment terms favourable them, delivered in a strange email that isn't clear whether it applies in future or addressing the immediate requirements too. Given their payment history, and the model JupiterJasper works under, I explained our position and offered various payment alternatives to continue working under for discussion. And then everything goes quiet. I try several times to get clear direction on what the Client wants to do. And there is just silence. The completed stationery is accepted, but not one word is said about the ongoing work. Eventually, I send an email saying that I assume they have changed their minds, and bill them for a portion of the hours completed since his agreement ended and previous invoice was paid. And again, nothing. Eventually, I get a vague response. And what follows is your standard 'to and fro' of varying reasons why they should not pay their bill. And so 6 months can be used up just like that. First I am told that they had never appointed JupiterJasper to continue the work. My extensive paper trail very clearly indicates that they did indeed proceed under the same basis as they had for more than a year, with all sorts of team requests, supplier deflections, and even a great email saying I've been told that JupiterJasper is now handling all of the marketing for them, so please could JupiterJasper do.... Rationality and logic prevail. Until the next excuse - they don't believe that the work done is of any value. Business cards and stationery, and more than 9 hours of my time working with the team defining shop layouts, merchandising, product lines, sales techniques, handling supplier information requests, quotations, and responding to numerous requests all generated by the team on instruction to do so from my Client. Well, perhaps they don't now consider what they asked of me to be of any value, but my time is paid by the hour, and always has been in more than a year long relationship. And now for the cherry. I must detail the specifics of a three hour meeting defining the marketing layout of the shop and merchandising in minutes to prove the meeting, despite it being called and attended by two of the team, before the bill will be paid. And I must promise to never discuss their business with anyone, and I must promise to never show or refer to the great work that I have spent more than 18 months producing. Hands up who thinks they will take my marketing ideas and still not pay me? There is a word for small businesses that don't pay other small businesses and contribute to the economic pickle we are in, and it is not 'business'. So they don't want to or can't pay me. Or they believe that I should have been working for free. We aren't talking about very much money. Almost my food bill for the month, or Christmas presents. To me it's a relationship that I fed and nurtured for more than 18 months and work that I am proud of that I can never share with anyone. What is the loss calculation for that? Fortunately, we are mostly all grown up and can choose who we want to do business with. I am very confident that if you see value in what they do for your business, my story won't matter to you in the slightest. But me? Well, I'd want to know. My conscience is clear. I've really believed in their business, and everything I have done has been done with their best interests at heart. In a world filled with people you cannot trust, you'd think that finding a supplier who actually cares about your business is worth something. I know this is not unique. It happens to everyone. But what is important for me is to continue with my values intact. I like giving clients the benefit of the doubt and my trust and continuing to allow myself to get emotionally involved with their business. I believe that I do great work when I take what they do personally and believe in it. And that's why I do what I do. Bronwyn Durand founded JupiterJasper, the Marketing Mentor for small businesses. Bronwyn is also The Brand Whisperer, with a special interest in building commercial identities for businesses. Do you get my free weekly email? Sign up to ’1 Thing to Improve Your Marketing this week’ here.
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