Horrible clients…Every business has one. Ask those who would call you a client. Chances are, if they won’t tell you, it’s you.
By natural ordering, every business has a best and worst client. More than likely, the ranking has very little to due with the account size or any other monetary figure and more to do with the general quality of the experience. It is important that the worst client is still a pretty good client to have. Otherwise, it might be time to fire the client.
Starting out, we needed every single client that we could get. Bills needed to be paid and we couldn’t get to where we wanted to go without money. That meant killing a lot of people with kindness and more than our fair share of “yes sir” responses.
Pretty soon we found ourselves working at capacity (and then some) and our income was at less than 40% of our potential.
So where do we go from there? We literally could not take on any new work, but could not afford to stay put.
The solution was found in an inventory of our clientele. While every client we had at the time was getting a “discount” of sorts, there were some clients we didn’t seem to mind continuing. Those we the clients who we believed it, who were appreciative of our help, and aware of the impact their low budget had on our company.
The problem was left staring us in the face. It was obvious, but we hated to admit it. We had a major no-win client who was destroying us. We found that this client consistently “knew better” than us, and changed our strategy based on their marketing “expertise.” They were that annoying fan at a sporting event who never played a day in their life, yet thinks they know better than the professional athlete.
The result, failure. We were drastically underperforming and facing responsibility for following orders that we disagreed with in the first place.
At one point, after a suggestion of ours was disregarded and the chosen path backfired we were told that we need to “argue with them harder to get our point across.” That’s right. Our client blamed us for not throwing enough of a fit to get our way.
Looking around I found the impact of this relationship to be very drastic. Employee moral was down. My team felt abused. Our energy and excitement was down. People started doubting their skills and we were throwing more of our valuable time and energy into an account that already was unvalued. I realized that there was no good that could come from continuing the relationship.
Think about it. You have to fire employees at some point. You don’t just constantly fire the weak link, do you? You fire the employee who brings harm to the future of the company and cannot improve. Why not use the same rationale on clients?
No matter how hard you continue to work, there are just some clients who are never going to become “good clients.” I don’t think anyone sets out on an endeavor to fail, but sometimes their own personality or philosophy just gets in the way of any chance for success.
You will have clients that will undervalue your time and energy. You will have clients that think they know better than you do (Which begs the question, why did they hire you to begin with). You will have clients that will lie, cheat, or steal to get ahead. If you are in business, you WILL face these clients.
The key is to sever these ties when ultimately necessary. Exhaust all reasonable means of improving the relationship – key word being reasonable. Once that threshold is crossed, there’s no looking back. Cut the ties at all costs and start moving forward.
Doug Winegardner is the CEO & Founder of Radius Media Agency.