Paying the Bills

I’ve been self-employed for more than half of my life. At age 15, I was one of the only delivery carriers in North Little Rock for the now defunct Arkansas Gazette, that consistently delivered my 450 paper routes on time, and stayed in good standing (not in debt) with the paper. At age 23 I opened a retail art gallery in Little Rock, not an easy market, that 13 years later is the place for new and exciting art in Little Rock. After selling my portion of the art gallery to my partner, I went into event production, spent 9 years freelancing and working full time for several companies in the Mid-South, and now, for the past 3 years have been working in the industry on a full-time freelance basis.

I may not have an MBA, but I know what it’s like to run a small (tiny) business. I know what it’s like when market conditions turn sour, expectations are not met, or worse, people don’t pay their bills. That’s why this article from the not so friendly Politico bothers me a lot.

From the article:

A pair of Ohio companies owed more than $25,000 by Clinton for staging events for her campaign are warning others in the tight-knit event production community — and anyone else who will listen — to get their cash upfront when doing business with her. Her campaign, say representatives of the two companies, has stopped returning phone calls and e-mails seeking payment of outstanding invoices. One even got no response from a certified letter.

Folks, this is my industry. This is a low profit, highly competitive industry. Payroll is by far the largest annual expense, and that means cash flow is key. Holding off on payment for 30 days is one thing, but some of these events were held in February, that 30 days have past.

In looking at the Clinton Campaign’s most recent disclosure, filed on 3/20/08, I count $418,487 in outstanding debts for the item Event Expense: Equipment, or about 4.8% of her total outstanding debt ($8,733,603) for that report. Of the companies listed, I found seven that I either have, or regularly do business with. They are owed a total of nearly $81,000 (19.4% of the total owed for production expenses). Additionally, the campaign owes a total of $7650 to two I.A.T.S.E locals. I.A.T.S.E. is the stagehand union. This sum represents money that would go to union member payroll.

These are, by and large, small businesses, in some cases family businesses, that compete nationally for work in an industry that has to be one of the most competitive service oriented industries you’ve never heard much about. While $80K may seem like a lot spread over seven companies, one company is owed nearly ¾ of that total for events held in the March 4th primary.

I’ve contacted the owner of that company to find out the status of the invoice. Obviously, if the balance has been paid I will amend the numbers. Still I cannot stress just how important it is, for both the companies as well as the full time and freelance people they employ.

Often freelancers are held hostage by the payment of event invoices in order to receive their pay. This happens in just about every industry that employs freelance employees. As a freelancer, I know just how financially damaging and stressful it can be, having to wait 30+ days for payment on a job. Unlike some industries, you cannot get your product back (your time) and many individuals have not had the good fortune I have and are basically living paycheck to paycheck.

If the Hillary Campaign is really looking out for the little guy, as they have consistently claimed, they need to pay up now. Being small business friendly means paying your bills on time. Get the checkbook out and get it done.

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