Growing love with someone who won't pay their bill

One of the best things we've done for our business at LYB is changing from invoicing our clients at the end of the month to automatically direct debiting people at the start of the month. Its done two great things for us. Firstly its helped our cash flow ... we're getting paid on average two months earlier than we were. And as many of you know, in small business this can be critical. Secondly we don't have to chase people for payments anymore ... and that makes life much more enjoyable!

But we still had one outstanding payment on our books that had been hanging around for a couple of years. How do you deal with someone who isn't paying their bill when you are standing for love in your business?

It's tricky. I'm aiming to take actions that have myself and those I influence feel better. But that doesn't mean being a door matt. And I wasn't feeling great about not being paid.

Cam (not his real name) has a business making furniture. I know he's struggling ... very much in the survival stage of his business. I also know he wants to pay us - he was happy with the value he received, and has told us he wants to settle the account. And yet he doesn't return phone calls or emails.

So I dropped in a few months ago when I was in his neighbourhood. I have to say, he didn't look thrilled to see me. He was apologetic, and said there was a light at the end of the tunnel ... and promised to pay in the next couple of months.

Fast forward to July - and we still haven't been paid. I considered using a debt collector - but that didn't feel right (and not very loving). I also considered writing it off ... and that didn't feel right either. Then I had a brain wave.

I went and visited Cam again. I've had an idea, I told him. We're moving into our new office and need some furniture. How about designing and building us a boardroom table as payment? Cam was thrilled with the idea - it was like a weight had been lifted off him.

I'm pretty happy too. I've managed to resurrect a relationship that looked pretty dicey, and come up with a solution that has us both feel better. And we get a beautiful piece of furniture built with love.

How do you deal with problem payers?