Skip to content

Firing the Client


NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics One of the most painful, disappointing and crucial decisions a business has to make is firing a client.

Firing a client becomes necessary for a variety of reasons. Clients that don’t pay their bills, that don’t return phone calls, etc., those are the obvious ones and nobody really minds letting them go. What are the signs of letting a potentially or definitely lucrative client go?

The client

  • is making dangerous business decisions.
  • continually ignores your suggestions in favor of their own (usually inappropriate or inadequate) research.
  • is routinely unmanageable.
  • refuses to make decisions while demanding that you make them.
  • is intimidated by their staff.
  • behaves inappropriately at meetings (this includes “down time” such as meeting outside of the work environment).

There are other things to watch for and this list is far from complete, it’s simply the ones that show up most often and the ones new businesses need to be able to recognize when they begin.

Recognizing the Danger Signs

  • Does the client have a history of putting their business at risk for no obvious economic reason?
    Example: The client has called you in to solve a problem, to alleviate some pain. Find out who was doing it before you came on the scene and ask them why they moved on. If you’re the first person/group to take on this task, ask the client for references from other consulting groups, etc. I always ask about failures; What did you do that didn’t work? Who worked with you that you let go and why? Understanding why and how failures occurred provides valuable insight into a client’s business strategies.
  • You’re not a real service or product provider until you’ve had a client who knows more about your field than you do.
    Do you have a proven five year track record guiding companies through social marketing? Did the client read two articles online and is now telling you how things should be done? It’s time to offer your services elsewhere.
  • Does the client routinely provide excellent reasons for not returning emails, missing or being late to meetings, missing or joining concalls late, rescheduling this, that and the other thing, coming unprepared and repeatedly asking you to cover things covered when they weren’t in the room or covered in previous sessions, suddenly showing up with another decision maker without providing you any background or warning?
    Move on, my friend, move on.
  • Clients hired you because they didn’t know what to do. But they’re responsible for their company, not you.
    You must provide them with the best advice, wisdom, suggestions, …, possible, but you must never ever ever provide them with a scapegoat. Document everything, all exchanges, all conversations, all meetings. Always follow up with an email “This is what I think we covered and decided to do” and make sure they respond. Should things go sour, you have a paper trail that they agreed to, the decisions to do this or that were theirs, not yours, and you can safely move your business forward rather than worry about getting a bad rap when your client meets their peers at the healthclub.
  • There are few things I’ve seen that are more unnerving than a client who gets bullied by their staff. It’s rarely open bullying and intimidation is recognizable in many forms; someone in the meeting talks over the boss, someone counters the boss’ ideas without providing opposing data, they privately trash-talk the boss, they talk to you sotto voce about the boss during meetings, they, not the boss, contacts you to change plans.
    Get out while you can.
  • One thing more unnerving than a weak manager is an inappropriate manager. They drink too much, they make inappropriate remarks about their staff in and outside of the workspace, they want you to be their confessor, …
    I’ll admit this one is often the most difficult to recognize because often the client has taken us into their confidence before such behaviors manifest. My suggestion is to remember that there’s a difference between friendship and business and it pays to compartmentalize each.

Hope this helps.

RVMsmallfrontcover.jpgYou can follow me and my research on Twitter. I don’t twit often but when I do, it’s with gusto!

Have you read my latest book, Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History? It’s a whoppin’ good read and An Economy of Meaning readers get a 25% off the list price of all NextStage research by entering ECOMEAN1 when they purchase.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: