by Jennie Norris, ASPM, IAHSP Original Post Most people have seen those movies – the gangster flick where the bad guy named Guido talks with a thick Brooklyn or Italian accent and roughs up some other character as part of the plot. No one likes Guido. I bet Guido does not even like being Guido. Yet so many Staging business colleagues put themselves in that role of the enforcer, collector – well, Guido. The good news is there are ways to get away from being in that role. Back before merchant accounts were part of our business process, I would invoice clients for payment and then wait expectantly for a check to be mailed to me or left for me to pick up. I am sure they meant well and had every intention of paying me on time and in full, but then some unexpected bill came up or they forgot they had to pay for some other thing – and my invoice went to the bottom of the stack. It was not just sellers – it was also Realtors. Paying for the Staging services was not a priority to them – but to me it was my only source of income and was a priority for me to support my family. Staging is not a hobby to me – it is a full-fledged business and so I had to find a way to ensure others understood that fact. Let’s face it – to a client, paying for Staging services does not seem quite as important as paying for a house payment or other pressing bills. Hounding people for payment took the joy and focus off what Staging is about – making properties more marketable, making sellers and Realtors happy, and ultimately earning money in my business. With how far we have come with many different options for processing credit or debit cards for payments I am left scratching my head when I hear colleagues complain about not getting paid. It is so easy to avoid being Guido. Set up a merchant account. Require clients to provide you with a valid credit or debit card number. Process that payment at the onset of the next billing cycle and before a third party rental company may collect from you. If that card is declined when you go to process it, there is no Staging that takes place. If you process it for ongoing rental and the card declines, you pick up your stuff. Period. No leaving things in place believing that the check is on its way. My experience is when a client has poor intentions and is going to default on paying, they will do it when you give them an easy way to make it happen. When you take control of the money processing, these people cannot get away with not paying. Leaving inventory in place with no client payment means you end up in the hole financially with little recourse. Colleagues that have not been paid and are not in charge of their business money flow talk about having to put liens on the property or go to small claims court. Both options create a negative situation that takes our focus off being productive. They can also take a long time to be resolved. Bottom line – Stop being Guido. Don’t accept checks for large projects and/or for those projects that have repeat inventory payments. Period. No matter how nice a client is, or how good their intentions are, we leave ourselves open for being taken advantage of by not having professional standards that are communicated and enforced up front. Someone that wants to only pay by check can provide a debit card – it is the same thing as the funds are pulled from the bank account. I put away my Guido hat years ago – as soon as merchant accounts became available to me. I gladly pay the processing fees that are far, far less than the cost of my time to hunt people down and hound them for payment. I typical Staging project merchant fees are nominal compared to the thousands of dollars of my time and energy spent dealing with non-payment clients, not to mention the sleepless nights wondering how I am going to cover other bills I have to pay. Just because a client has not paid is not a good reason for lack of payment to a vendor or service provider I owe. There are numerous options for merchant accounts from your bank, credit union, online resources, and so forth. You want to check the various terms and fees from the providers to ensure there are not hidden costs and negotiate low processing fees. So, in the words of Guido, “Fuhgetaboutit” – get a merchant account and enter the world of easy money processing. No more waiting on others – we are in control of our money flow. It is so easy, makes sense for a business owner that plans on growing, owning and operating a successful, thriving and profitable Staging business for years to come.