By Tim Hayes

The invoice lay there on my desk, as I stood in mute disbelief.  This had to be a mistake.  A clerical error.  An executive assistant’s idea of a joke that misfired terribly.

A $500 bill from my attorney’s office, when I had not been in to see them for three months, and already had paid the fee for those services in full.  Huh?

No, something strange happened here.  This can’t be legit.  No way I owe these people $500.  Better pick up the phone and straighten this out.  Once past the receptionist, I got connected to my attorney’s assistant.

“Hi, this is Tim Hayes.  Listen, I got an invoice from you folks for $500, and I’m pretty sure there’s been a mistake.  According to my records, I’m all paid up for any legal work you’ve done for me.”

“Oh, well, let me connect you, Mr. Hayes.”  Then the attorney got on the line.

“Hi, Tim!  Yes, that invoice is correct.”

“Correct?  What are you talking about?  When did I rack up another $500 in legal fees?”

“Oh, I was thinking about you this month.”

Stony silence ensued, as my brain attempted to process this verbal curve ball.  Eventually, I sputtered, “Uhhhhh…what?”

“Yes, I spent some time thinking about you and your business over the past month, and the fee for that time spent on your behalf came to $500.”

Now, you need to understand something at this point.  I’m half Italian and half Irish.  That’s a fairly volatile powder keg that you don’t want to strike a match anywhere near.  Yet my learned lawyer had managed to do just that.

“I am not paying this invoice.  I never authorized you to spend time ‘thinking’ about me, and you never told me this was happening.  I am ripping up this invoice now.  You can spend the next month thinking about that.  And I’m finding a new attorney.”

Can you believe the gall?

In a service-oriented business, openness and fairness must reign.  You treat people like crap, and crap’s what you’ll get back.  You treat people well, and you’ll do well.  Deservedly so, on both counts.

From my base of operations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that goes double.  Maybe even triple.  This is such a big small town.  You’ve heard of “six degrees of separation?”  Around here, it’s more like two degrees.  A bad rep’ll kill ya.  A good one does wonders.

My motto has always been “No Surprises.”  Be straight with everybody, about everything.  You don’t even have to think twice about that.

Copyright 2013 Tim Hayes Consulting