The Four Agreements and Collection Negotiations


The book
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz was published in 1997.  The book has been translated into over 40 languages and has sold over 7 million copies in the United States alone. Clearly, it hits a nerve for some people.  Although the book is meant to help with personal growth and relationships, I’ve found that it has business applications as well. At The Kaplan Group, we try to live by the Four Agreements, and have found that paying attention to the underlying values helps us in collecting on invoices.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Be impeccable with your word
It seems obvious that this applies to paying the bills you agree to pay, but it also applies to those on the other side of the issue.  Not only do you need to provide the services you agreed to, you need to collect on your bills according to your agreement. Too often we’ve seen clients who forget to invoice, or invoice late and are then surprised when they have trouble collecting on bills.  Part of the agreement you make with yourself, your business, and your client is to bill in a timely fashion.

Don’t take anything personally
Nothing derails a negotiation faster than an emotional reaction.  The reason your client owes you money has nothing to do with you, how good your work or product is, or how much they value you.  Their payment problems are about them, their organization, and their cash flow. If you stop taking the lack of payment personally, you can focus more clearly on a solution.

Don’t make assumptions
Assumptions about what the other person wants, or is capable of, are a threat to a successful negotiation.  Instead of assuming, and acting on those assumptions, do your research. You should also do your research before making an agreement in the first place.  Sometimes a simple credit check or reputation check can prevent you from engaging with a business that won’t be able to pay their bills.

Always do your best
It’s something your parents told you, and it rings true for business, too.  Do your best. Do your best to provide a great service or product. Do your best to be understanding with your clients and employees.  Do your best to research and assess your clients. Do your best to meet your obligations. There is no guarantee that doing your best will yield the results you want, but at least you’ll know that you tried.

Dean Kaplan with Don Jose Ruiz in San Diego, March 2019

In 2009, Don Miguel Ruiz’s son, Don Jose Ruiz published a sequel of sorts to The Four Agreements.  In it, he added a fifth agreement, “Be skeptical, but learn to listen.”  In some ways, this could be a motto for the collections business. We are always skeptical of the reasons given for not paying a bill, but it’s also important that we really listen to everyone on both sides of the disagreement.

At The Kaplan Group, we try to live up to the Four Agreements every day.  We think that makes us the best agency for your collection needs. Let us know how we can help.


About The Author:

Dean Kaplan is Principal at The Kaplan Group. Dean's exper­tise is widely rec­og­nized in the debt col­lec­tion indus­try. His advice has been pub­lished in a num­ber of indus­try newslet­ters such as Credit Today and InsideARM and he is a fre­quent speaker at indus­try events.