Canceling Debt…


Early next week, I’m meeting with a client to tell them that they don’t have to pay me.

That’s right, I’m going to tell them that they don’t have to pay me for thousands and thousands of dollars of work that I’ve already done for them.

I am, shall we say… canceling the debt.

Did I mention it’s thousands of dollars?
Enough to live on for a month or so?
And that I am releasing them of all obligation?
Okay, just checking.

Now, one other thing I have to tell you… my client doesn’t know about all this yet. Right now it’s just between you and me and readers from all fifty states and about seventy-three countries around the world.

Shhh… it’s our little secret 🙂


Back to the client.

When we sat down and put the project together a few months ago, I was told that the State of Wisconsin had a grant that would cover a significant part of the expenses (and my profit), and that the funds were to be dispersed about 11 1/2 weeks ago.

So, we went to work.

Since 1987, I have signed exactly two contracts or work proposals… every other dime was done on a handshake. I took care of my part… I simply expected the other party to take care of theirs. And yes, there were times where we got the short end of the stick, but that happens WITH contracts as well.

Interestingly, each of the jobs where firm contracts were in place involved public funds, and each ran into headaches that could have easily been avoided if commonsense, and not the contract terms, prevailed.

And in retrospect, each would likely have cost less as well.

Gee, now that I’m walking down Memory Lane, I’m thinking that over the years I was told more than once that I needed contracts and purchase orders and documents written in Legal-ese to make sure I wouldn’t get raked in certain business deals, and my response was always the same…

“If I need to bind them legally, I really don’t think I want their business.”


So now back to today.

The State Application Process went well and was right on schedule. However, along the way, within that state office there were some very difficult (and ultimately tragic) circumstances which delayed the process. Regardless, the contract has now been awarded – months behind schedule, and states that it will not pay for work done before it’s official approval date… which is last week.

Time for the commonsense part.

There are some times and some industries where you need to make your hay when the sun is shining. This is pretty simple. The Farmers’ Markets begin in June… contract or not, you don’t wait ’til August to begin your work! The Department of Agriculture certainly understands this… it is the reason that the initial approval and award dates were scheduled for May.

So herein lies the issue. The small farm owners involved have suggested that they don’t have the funds to pay for the previously completed services without the grant money, and I have no reason to doubt them or question their integrity. As I said before, I work on a trust basis and a handshake every day and have for years.

The part that stings a bit is that the work we did was really, really good… almost like art. This is frustrating because being “Whole-Brained”, sometimes my Right Brain tells me that we occasionally just need to give our art away. Almost always, my Left Brain disagrees.

So now, as I see it, I am left with three choices:

1) Submit generic, vague, or post-dated invoices for the previously rendered services and get them paid by the state (not an option)

2) Forgive the payment for the work already completed, then do thousands of additional dollars of work and submit THOSE invoices for payment by the state, or

3) Forgive the payment for the work already completed, part friends, walk away and perform my art somewhere else.

Well, I guess there is also number 4)… we could get into a peeing contest over it (not going to happen).

So here’s where we are. I’ve already told you that #1 and #4 are out… if the owners tell me they cannot pay, I will trust their word and write off the remaining balance for the previously completed work. Still, I’m interested to know what you’d do 🙂

I look forward to hearing from you.


Photo Credit:

Marco Raaphorst