Collection Tips

You’ve performed your part of the bargain, and the debtor slow pays you or walks away from the debt altogether. Some debtors require a gentle prodding. Others simply will not act until muscle is applied. In either case, a law firm with deep knowledge of collections is a powerful ally.

Tip 1: Know the lien. In my experience, nothing will make the debtor cry “uncle” faster than a properly filed lien.

Tip 2: Be deliberate about your credit policy. Unless you require 100% up-front payment, then you will need to extend credit. Remember to have a written policy that your staff understands and implements. Such a policy should identify risky agreements and mitigate risk wherever possible, using tools such as deposits and personal guarantees.

Tip 3: Begin collection efforts early. If the payment due date comes and goes without payment by the customer, then start your collection efforts right away. Have template letters formatted for mailing at 5, 30 and 45 days past the due date.

At some point, someone from your company should call the debtor. One goal of that initial conversation is to affirm the debt. In other words, your staff member will want to ensure that there is no bona fide reason for non-payment, such as a real problem with your product or service.

It is also crucial to memorialize everything. Write a note to your file any time you speak with a debtor that includes the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. Also, send a letter to the debtor after every meaningful conversation. Something like, “as we discussed, you agreed to send us $5,000 now and the remaining balance in 30 days.”

On August 27, 2013, Gary Quinnett presented a legal seminar on commercial real estate issues. The attendees rated him "Excellent"