NOT Resurrection Dept.
The Value of Premise Visits
Recently, we accepted a case against an Ontario firm that specializes in crematorium supplies, body bags, and crime scene gear. After the usual in-house morbid collection humour about there being life in the file or if it might be dead, we began work on the case.
Numerous calls, emails, text messages and social media direct messages later, there was still no reply from the company owner, so it was time to do something different!
We at Priority are often asked if we do premise visits (visiting the account holder's physical business). The short answer is - usually, it's not necessary.
However, there are times when premise visits can be an extremely effective method to gain progress on an account.
And we are all about getting creative with resources. We don't give up that easily.
If you are a creditor or a collector and considering a premise visit, prepare yourself to be professional.
Tip #1 - Your first goal is to observe. Look for business "activity"- does this company look like they are in operation?
The address of the company isn't too far from our Richmond Hill Ontario office, so we decided to drive by the account holder's location and see what's up. We took a look at the menu board upon arrival, and the company was still listed; we quickly found the correct unit. The premises consisted of offices in the front and a warehouse loading dock area in the rear of the building. We decided to review the loading dock area first to see if there were active shipping and receiving. The dock doors were closed, and the garbage bin looked empty (no apparent overloading of the refuse bins of active industrial supply firms).
Given the minimal levels of activity in the rear of the business, we examined the front doors of the company. Staff was looking out of the windows at us while we were taking photographs of the building façade and signage. We were encouraged to see a reasonable level of activity in the front office of the business and decided to enter the facility to speak with the owner in person.
Tip # 2- If they give you a reason why they can't pay now, look beyond the objection. Ask more questions and dig deeper.
We presented our business card and asked for the owner.
"He is out of the country. Try back in September."
We asked to speak to the manager in charge, and the Finance Manager came to talk with us. We informed her of the purpose of our visit and asked about the debt to our client. The Finance Manager claimed that she was unable to pay anything until the owner came back in September.
"How are the staff and other suppliers were getting settled in the interim?" we asked.
Of course, she had no reasonable answer. She was cornered.
Tip # 3- Get on the same side of the table as your account holder
Siegmund Freud once said that even the lowly rat, when cornered, will turn and fight. One must exercise care when making premise visits. We determined that the company was actively avoiding its obligation to our client, so we offered the Finance Manager a "way out". She needed to save face, and we needed her on our side to get to the bottom of the reason for non-payment. The Finance Manager then admitted that the owner was counting on the fact that our client was offshore, and they wouldn't sue for USD 14,800 worth of goods in Canada.
Tip # 4- Use a premise visit as an opportunity to gather as much data as possible
If litigation becomes our only option, the premise visit helped us to determine a plethora of data we can use later if litigation becomes our only option. While we were on location, we could see names of suppliers on outgoing mail, staff count on the in/out board, inventory levels through the doorway to the warehouse, and their current bank (on the point of sale machine).
When making a premise visit, we suggest taking two people – one to do the talking, and the other to take notes and make observations.
Though this story gives you some insight into how we handle a premise visit, keep in mind that there are many nuances and different situations. If you decide to visit your customer's premises, please use discretion.
And don't worry about power moves or intimidation - it's a waste of energy.
Instead, be as respectful and polite as possible. It's better for you, your customer and your cash flow.