At some point, everyone gets stuck holding a bill that isn’t paid. This forces a tough decision of whether (and how much) to spend more money and time to try to chase something that should have already been paid.


Start-ups and new ventures often face this same decision in the context of trying to grow their organizations in spite of tight budgets with uncertainty. A road map for the worst case can often be essential to reaching the best possible result when faced with such difficult situations. In that case, here are some things to think about in order to make the best out of challenging financial situations:


Plan Ahead


Everything can take an unexpected turn for the worst at any time. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. This will help to set up future success and probably avoid many headaches. Here are some ways to put that philosophy into action:


  • Put everything in writing when possible.
  • Include provisions for attorney fees in contracts in the event of default.
  • Define default in agreements as a failure to pay on time.
  • Charge interest on late payments and define what makes payment late.
  • Put these terms on invoices.
  • Designate a location and method in the event of disputes. This could be anything from a required mediation to a place for litigation.


Evaluate the Worst Case


Try solving the problem backwards. Look at the worst possible outcome for yourself. Identify how this could happen and map it out. This will help develop strategy and identify the objectives throughout the process. Think about the following in order to map out that strategy:


  • What do you get if you win?
  • What’s the cost (economic, reputation, and social) if you are as aggressive as possible?
  • Write down and compare the value of what you get and what you lose if you ultimately win.
  • Are you first in line? Or, are there others chasing the same thing?


Keep Communication Open


Relationships can be powerful. Negotiation can only happen if the parties are communicating. Don’t give up, but put emotions and the past aside in this communication. Instead, think about how the parties can move forward and reach the desired outcome. In doing this, think about:


  • How much am I willing to spend in time and money in this process?
  • What would be the least amount that I am willing to accept to settle?
  • Beyond money, what will I accept and what can the other party offer to resolve the debt?
  • What are my options if talks break down?
  • What information can I gather now that will help down the road (whether good or bad)?


Growth and recovery are often intertwined for many companies. Unfortunately, the worst case can unexpectedly happen to anyone at any time. Take a proactive approach that is mindful of this risk before it happens whenever possible in order to aim for a better outcome. Tough economic situations are best met with strategy and objectively assessing the options to reach a new definition of success. Set parameters by understanding how bad things can get in order to set attainable goals. Consult with counsel and/or accountants when faced with a tough economic situation in order to help get a real understanding of the good, bad, and ugly.