Credit guru Thea Dudley has spent more than 30 years in LBM credit management. Now she's here to answer your credit and collection questions. Got a question for her mailbag? Contact Thea at [email protected]

Dear Thea,

I am fairly new to this industry but have been a credit manager for over a decade. I have never worked in an industry where "Elk hunting season opened today" was considered an acceptable excuse for not paying your account on time. Is this legitimately considered acceptable and why am I made to feel like I am the fun sucker who is not aware of this unwritten rule?

Signed, Hunting for Money in Helena

Dear Money Hunter,

Well, apparently Mr. Rogers did not adequately prepare you for the people in your neighborhood. So let me be the first to say "Welcome" and acquaint you with your new normal. Before we more forward with your question, I feel I should point out that you left out a few other "seasons." Aside from elk season, there is deer season, turkey season, white wing dove season, quail season, raccoon season, squirrel season, bobcat season, coyote season, feral swine season, wild boar season, alligator season, beaver season, hog season, pheasant season, duck season, and geese season. While we are at it, are we talking about a rifle or a crossbow? Did they have to put in for a draw (like the lottery, but for the change to shoot stuff that is running away from them and only so many are allowed the privilege in any given season)? Or are they renting a helicopter to search by air (yes, those are the lazy—or what I like to refer to as "gentlemen" hunters)? Lest we forget opening day for ice fishing or celebrating Coon dog day (yes, that is a real thing in North Carolina and it is taken very seriously).

Acceptable you ask? Depends, say I. If this is a once-a-year thing because the customer had to get out the door to get his butt into a tree stand or bog or whatever, then I would go with tolerable. Which is just another way of saying, "Yeah, that is an acceptable reason to pay me late on occasion." If the customer is consistently a late payer due to his chronic addiction to whatever the Season de Jour is, then not so much. I can respect the need to unleash one's inner connection to nature and to get primal—not to mention my love of jalapeno cheese deer meat summer sausage—but not at my AR's repeated expense.

I suggest you get familiar with the major opening seasons—much like football or baseball, but more impactful to getting paid—and then schedule your collection calls accordingly. About a week before you know your customer is heading out to stalk an unarmed dinner, give him/her a call for a friendly reminder of getting their payment in before they head out into the wild so "service to their account will go uninterrupted." In other words, "Hey buddy, any deliveries or will calls will go out the door as usual so long as we understand each other." Which means I need money.

This works great if they have crews they need to keep working. A reminder of how we can avoid a repeat of last year's debacle of a grown man whispering his credit card information from a tree stand in the middle of nowhere is a very impactful memory and motivator. As is having your local credit manger loudly shouting into the forest—alright, bellowing through a bullhorn—about your ability to buy ammo but not pay your bill on time also keeps a healthy level of (fearful) respect for each other's skills.

Of course, if they are a one-person operation or the whole crew hunts together and they get into their well-provisioned truck prior to you reaching them, then you may have an issue until they return. If you find yourself unable to reach your customer or are told that no payments can go out until your wayward hunter returns, I suggest you make a note on the customer's account that they are a hunter—or fisherman or whatever—and also note what they hunt and when the season kicks off in their neck of the woods. This helps you be prepared in advance since, like any other holiday, it happens about the same time every year.

For the record: No, I do not hunt anything other than my next fabulous pair of shoes. Yes, I am a gun owner (pistol, revolver, shotgun, and rifle—I'm not a nut, I just like to buy things). Yes, I know where my food comes from and I don't care to get that acquainted with it. No, I do not begrudge others who enjoy hunting as long as they eat what they kill and share it with me.

Moral of this story, my little Money Hunter, is, like all good hunters, it is always best to remember the old adage Know your prey and plan accordingly.