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Assertiveness in Business

December 15, 2010

It happened again, like it had the past three years, and I knew without a doubt the discussion would be difficult. An annual event I’ve managed for nine years had increased in attendance, for the third year in a row, forcing my client to move the venue to another facility. With the event less than four weeks away, every logistical detail had to be revisited and vendors brought in to re-evaluate the site and their contracts as they added more services, equipment and staff. In the height of trouble shooting an event, I don’t find it necessary to remind my clients of a clause in my contract that states extra work beyond the original contract will be tallied and billed. In the middle of a crisis, I only want to support my clients, making it easier for them to handle the problem,  and do what needs to be done.

Within days of the event’s completion, I contacted my client to tell her an additional invoice for extra service hours was being compiled. Like the past two years, I was questioned for the additional billing. I pointed out the contract clause and the fact we didn’t question other event vendor’s extra bills. The conversation was stressful as I defended added service hours for the third year in a row.  In the end, a detailed account of my hours and a well written letter to my client helped solve the situation. But the situation was unpleasant.

As women entrepreneurs, especially for those in service businesses when our time is money, it can be difficult to predict and plan the perfect service contract. We might not bill for all the hours we know we’ll perform or we might not want to bill our clients when extra work is requested. We may lack the confidence or nerve to ask for what we deserve. There isn’t a perfect science to projecting hours for a lengthy project; often times as great customer service providers we lose.

But sometimes we have to be assertive, watching out for ourselves and our bottom line. It can be uncomfortable to have a tense conversation with a favorite client or to ask for what is fair, but we need to do it and we have to be confident in the discussion.

Today’s blog is to remind you that being an entrepreneur requires a self-assured approach to handling difficult situations or complicated billing issues with clients. If we know we performed our duties as promised, have a record of the time spent, and a contract that outlines the situation, we must solicit for compensation no matter what.

If today’s the day you have been waiting to collect on past bills, now is the time to secure them. If you realize you need a stronger contract for 2011, add it to your must do list for January. Seek counsel or advice from other women entrepreneurs who have similar businesses and see what content is in their contracts.  Only by being confident and assertive can we get what is just.

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