Clients: when to keep them and when to let them go

Remember working on a work project that was both challenging and fun? It’s great!

The opposite of that is working on a project that’s challenging, frustrating, and it takes forever to complete.

What makes the difference? People.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people.
I have also worked with people that made me realize the limits of my patience…

When you have to let them go

I don’t know about you but I get a knee-jerk reaction when I see stupidity and arrogance together in one package. Clients like that get fired. I suppose I could be more polite and say: I terminate my business relationships with clients when it’s no longer in our best interest to work together.

No matter how you say it, it’s not an easy thing to do.

I remember an especially difficult case. My client, Mr. HID (as in “Hugely-In-Debt”) had a multi-million dollar income and lived a lavish lifestyle. He enjoyed having expensive toys (yacht, sports cars, etc.). Mr. HID owed lots of money to lots of people (including me). At one monthly meeting we were reviewing his paperwork. When the discussion of his overdue bill came up, he said, “Yeah, like your bills are more important than mine!” I found the comment to be offensive and his obvious lack of respect appalling.

As soon as he left, I called Ms. W (a wonderful client who had introduced me a year earlier to her close friend, Mr. HID). I wasn’t taking new clients then but she insisted.

I said to her, “You’ve been my client for many years and I have tremendous respect for you. I hope that what I’m going to say next will not impact our relationship. I simply have to terminate the account with your friend, Mr. HID.”

Ms. W, a truly classy lady, she offered to pay HID’s bill. I refused, of course! She remained my client after HID’s “departure”.

When to keep them

At the opposite end of the spectrum I have a client, Mr. N (as in Nice). I would meet with Mr. N and advise him on his business taxes and finances. When necessary, I would instruct him to pay X amount of money to various government entities. He always paid them in time.

Around 2007, the economy slowed down and many businesses were struggling, including Mr. N’s. I was really surprised when I received a letter from the IRS; he hadn’t paid one of his bills. The first one in all the years I’ve known him. Talking with him I found out what had happened. He didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills. He said that he managed to pay all his suppliers. And he also paid me. I spent the next half hour explaining the need of better communication. And talking about IRS….

Throughout this difficult period he paid his employees as usual but reduced his own salary as well as his sons’. I kept him up to date with financial and tax reporting without billing him. His suppliers were also very accommodating. When the economy improved, his business was doing well again. And he paid everyone what he owed. He needed no reminder to pay his bills.

Respectful, decent people like Mr. N are a pleasure to work with. And definitely keepers!

Decisions, decisions…

stay-or-goThe decision to part ways with some clients is not an easy one. Many factors enter in that equation – your lifestyle, family responsibilities, etc.

As I said earlier, don’t expect perfection – from yourself or your clients.

Expect some clients to be more challenging than others. You decide the best course of action. Instead of firing them you may decide to raise your fees – to factor in the aggravation : )

And that will be the topic on Friday: Money!

/Comments/in Time Money Success/by Mariana Fieraru
Mariana Fieraru
Mariana Fieraru, an Eastern European transplant, fell in love with her new home shortly after landing in New York. She "discovered" pizza! Years later she still loves pizza. And so do her two feathered-kids, Sunny and Flipper

Mariana worked on both, the east and the west coast.
Big or small, each project she worked on helped define the importance of gaining and sustaining a competitive edge in an increasingly complex business environment.

Business know-how, love of teaching and writing – all combined in 2006 to form OBI.
Its mission: to make learning fun! And easy.

Through its training, consulting, and publications OBI builds bridges of knowledge to take you from where you are to
where you want to go. Using a mix of serious, informal, analytical, and optimistic approach, OBI truly makes learning fun.

Learn More
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *