Ok guys. I'm going to write about something that I take VERY SERIOUSLY. And that is: GETTING MY MONEY. It seems as if a few here have had / or are having problems getting paid. Let me start with telling you a little about myself. I am a self taught businessman. I started this headache at a very young age. And I learned as I went. You name it, I've been through it, from pretty to ugly. Over the years I have learned alot about law. There is one thing that I virtually have never had a problem with - and that is getting paid. And I like to think that it's because of my proactive stance. Over the years I have talked with MANY contractors. And many contractors will collect the down payment, maybe get a 2nd payment along the way, and then bill for the final payment. I don't do that. I want my money. Not because I'm greedy. Not because I'm broke! But because I don't want to give anyone the opportunity to screw me. Folks, there are professional con-artists out there. They live in tents and they live in million dollar mansions. Also, most of them are the nicest, most down to earth people you can ever meet. But! In most states you can check people's criminal backgrounds for free. It's public information. It can be done at the courthouse. Heres a story: I have a close buddy that became friends with someone I went to H.S with, whom we'll call Kenny. Well over the last few months some things with Kenny have not quite been adding up. Over the weekend I went to the local gas station that I frequent and there was a note on the counter that said "NO more checks from XYZ Towing". Kenny is the owner of XYZ Towing. I though to myself "thats strange, he owns a big house, runs 4 tow trucks, blah blah blah". Then I thought "ok, the slow economy must be killing his tow business." WRONG!!! Because of past events, curiosity got the best of me. So through my sources I ran Kenny's name through the state court system. HOLY COW - 42 EFFIN files on him came up!!! Going back to 1995 he has been arrested numerous times for bad checks and fraud. He has judgements out the you know what on him! Apparently he did not pay the fence contractor that put up a $3500 fence at his house. He got a trailer that he didn't pay for. I could go on and on. You would never suspect him as being like this. Very nice guy. Very sincere. He would go the extra mile to help you. Now just say he had you put a patio in and you give hin 7 days to pay the final balance. GUESS WHAT?! YOU'RE NOT GETTING PAID! His history shows this! Here is what I do. Some can say it looks desperate. But I been doing this for at least 4 years now, and there is nothing that will get me to change my draw system. Those of you that are giving people 1 to 30 days to pay the balance need to seriously reconsider. 1. I collect 33.33% down, as this is what the state of MD allows. 2. I collect another 33.33% the day we start the job. 3. I'll collect another payment say when the base installation is complete. Or when the base installation and step construction is complete. 4. Depending on the job, I'll collect another payment when the seatwall(s) are/is done. If the progress payment is not received - work is stopped. I have had 2 or 3 clients where when it was time for a payment....they suddenly had to go out of town on business. I even had one lady say "I just gave you a check, I'm not giving you anymore". I responded "ok, then we'll pack up and leave". Which I then started writting in our contract somthing along the line of "if payment(s) are not made - work will be halted". And I have never had any problems since. 5. Another payment when paver installation is complete. The payment schedule is clearly spelled out in the contract. So it's not like I am randomly knocking on their door with my hand held out! The above is an example. I tailor the draws to the dollar amount. But I try to do it fairly for both me and the client. It is my intent that on the day we finish, the client has a balance of no more that $1500 remaining. This keeps my losses to a minimum. I try to stay ahead of the finances. Meaning, if there is a problem and its decided that we can not finish the job, I bill the client for what we did and I cut them a check, reimbursing them the difference. I have been an expert witness in court against a bad contractor. I have heard story after story. I am NOT about to do work and leave them with a $5,000(+) balance only to end up getting screwed. Ok, so we go to court? Kenny went to court at least 15 times over the last 13 years. All judgements against him. And guess what?! All his cases are still open! That means he hasn't satisified the debt! Folks, run your businesses how you want. This is something that I take seriously. And I am VERY proactive with. Suggestion - this may sound crazy, but if you really wanna learn about contract law and how the court system works - being that it is winter and most of you have little to do - go to your locall court house and sit in on some civil cases for a day or 2. I have done this. It's an invaluable learning expereince. Here is a copy and paste from a recent proposal: PAYMENT SCHEDULE - Client to submit payment(s) as follows: -1st Payment: Deposit of $18,723.00 (upon acceptance of this proposal) -2nd Payment: $18,723.00 paid on the day the work begins -$5,000.00 paid upon completion of stone pillars stone wall work -$10,000.00 paid upon completion of flagstone stoop, landing, and walks -Balance paid in full upon the day of completion Work will not be scheduled until the signed proposal and the deposit are received. In the event client can not be present to submit payment(s) as detailed above, client must make arrangements to see that payments are made to contractor as specified, or work will be suspended until payment(s) are received. Final payment is to be made upon the day of final completion. http://www.outdoorfinishes.com .