Many say the industry's most highly discussed hot topics are safety, e-logs and driver shortages. I disagree. There is one subject that will always trump the rest, and that is pay. Let's face it while we may enjoy trucking, we don't do this for our well-being and definitely don't want to do it for free!
Our industry has no shortage of controversial topics regarding the almighty dollar. There's the issue of how drivers are compensated; mileage pay, percentage, hourly or possibly even salary. The amounts paid, the benefits or lack thereof, not to mention the Driver Inc. fiasco. If you're an owner-operator like me or a small fleet owner, it's rates, brokerage fees, and pay schedule. To me, this last one doesn't get enough attention.
In most industries, you get paid at the point of sale or at least net 30. I only know this from a brief stint in the towing industry and talking with incredulous friends from other walks of life. I admit it seemed like common practice to me to have invoices paid in the 60-90 day range, and it never hit home how wrong this is until helping my son get his hot shot business running. I told him to be prepared for not getting paid in a timely fashion, but then his first few jobs were paid by Visa or e-transfer.
Thirty days later, it was a different story, and he was starting to be starved for cash flow. It made me go back and look at my own situation. As an owner-operator, I've worked for a few companies as a lease op and done work for myself directly for customers as well as working for brokers. Where I am currently is about the best I've had. I'm paid on the 15th of every month for ALL the work I did the previous month. I've also been on the other end of the spectrum, where I wasn't paid until the company I was leased to was paid for the invoice. It's understandable why this is their practice. They lack cash flow because they are not paid on time. As the old saying goes, sh*t runs downhill!
I'm guilty of it as well. There were times I couldn't pay my drivers on time because I wasn't receiving my money on time. In reflection, this is on me. The payment terms should be clearly laid out when we accept a job or contract. If the terms aren't met, we should cease to do work for the customer until they fulfill their end of the bargain.
If you're a company owner and you need monthly cash flow to operate, negotiate this with your customer. If the customer says they're net 90 and you can't afford to get to 90 days, you best have a big overdraft or don't do the job. In the oil patch, I would always hear things like, it's commonplace or accepted practice to be 60, 90 or even 120 days before being paid. Herein lies the problem, we keep "accepting" this. I did a few times and never pressed the issue until I was in dire straits, or they had become both my biggest customer and biggest liability!
For me, these conversations about money are not easy and only become harder when you have completed the work months before and need the money yesterday. So get it out of the way up front. If the person on the other side of the conversation is set on a longer term, discuss a small discount for paying early. I once got a service company from 90 to 30 days net for 2 percent. Most often, what they're after anyway is the tiny bit of interest on the money, and discounting it gives the appearance of making the same.
I suggest these strategies to you for the same reason I did to my son, to alleviate stress. Nothing is more stressful than not being able to pay your bills. It's even worse when you know you should be able to because you have billed out 10s of thousands.