I had been talking to a prospective client for over a year. Each time we’d meet, we would agree that we’d like to do business together. But every time the deal did not happen. The issue was always money. They are a start-up, and strapped for cash.
Then one day they asked me to do work for them on a “deferred” basis. Essentially a promissory note that said they’d pay me once they had the means to do so.
I have always resisted such deals, as my rule has been to take enough cash up front so if things went south, I’d be fine walking away with what I had already been paid. During the Internet Bubble of 1998/2000 I had been presented with plenty of “Equity-only” deals, only to wisely turn all of them down—a decision that saved me financially when the Bubble burst.
But now, in 2012, I considered the “differed” deal. I liked the founders of the company, and their business model. I agreed to the concept in principle thinking I’d write it off as a “pro-bono” project should things not work out. We had been talking about working together for long enough. It was time to get to work.
It was then that things got complicated. Structuring the “deferred” contract took weeks and weeks. The founder’s husband—a corporate attorney, got involved, and weeks turned to months. I was agreeing to everything, still the deal was not happening. They kept going round and round internally, and never making a decision. The deliverables hadn't changed. My fee hadn't changed, still time kept passing, and passing.
After months of contract writing, they finally decided that they didn’t want to do the deal. The issue was money—as it had been from the very beginning. Despite the deferred deal, they didn’t want to incur any more debt at this stage of their business, as was the case from the very beginning—way back in 2011.
There comment in the email they sent, "we hope to work together in the future."
I predict that will not happen.
I have worked with over 130 clients. Every single one of those deals was struck in a matter of days--if not hours. Any deal that took longer than a week to conclude, never happened.
As time passes, plans change, and intentions get muddled. If the time is right, and the relationship is a good match, swift action is always taken.
If it is meant to be, it will be.
And, it is time that kills all deals.