Here’s Why I Fired a Client Last Week
Knowing when to pull the plug on toxic business relationships gives you more time to find good clients.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Last Friday, I briefly hated my job again. I was brought back to a dark place I hadn't been in my career for a long time.
I had what was by far my most awkward business meeting in years. During the session, I started feeling anxious, my blood pressure rose sky high, and I began to have flashbacks to a psycho boss from my corporate days.
The client kept getting up from the table to pace back and forth during our meeting while I was talking, making it hard to focus on what I was saying. When he was sitting, his nervous fidgeting and strange body language made me feel more uncomfortable.
This guy was hard to talk to. I wasn't sure he was listening. He only made eye contact when it was his turn to speak.
Then about two hours into the meeting, I wasn't able to immediately solve one of his marketing problems in the three-hour session we had scheduled. He flipped out. I calmly explained I needed more time, and that I would not bill him for the extra time.
However, he wanted it done NOW! He raised his voice and stared me down.
He began to belittle me and insult my intelligence. Next, he demanded I compensate him for his hourly rate of $550 for his lost time.
Then, I got up from the table, and I politely excused myself from the meeting and terminated our relationship. I just walked out.
When I got back to the office, I issued a refund. It was a total loss for me. But I didn't want to waste any more time arguing with him about my fees.
At that point, I never wanted to see or speak to him again.
Generally, I would recommend trying to fix the relationship with the client and overextending if you need to make sure their needs are met.
However, there reaches a point when the relationship no longer makes sense. Toxic business relationships can suck the life out of your company and prevent growth.
Once the relationship breaches certain boundaries that each company sets for acceptable behavior from its clients, it often makes sense to cut your losses and move on.
If your clients exhibit these profit-sucking behaviors, consider parting ways with them.
1) They display anger management issues.
Nobody deserves to take abuse from the people they do business with. If your client can't control their temper and is dishing out insults like mine was, it makes working with them impossible.
If a client's first reaction is to get pissed when there is an issue with the account, their anger often gets in the way of finding the solution to the problem. Pleasing them will be nearly impossible, and trying to do so can deplete your resources and deflate your employees' morale.
2) They make unrealistic demands.
Sometimes a client might have demands that are unrealistic to the point that they become unprofitable. If it's a short-term problem that can be fixed by temporarily taking a loss, it often makes sense to do so if the client will return to being profitable in the future.
Some clients seem to get amnesia after they sign up and forget the original terms and conditions. Their requests for your time are unreasonable.
If the client's demands become so unrealistic that your company will lose money on them over the customer lifecycle, it makes sense to terminate the relationship before it gets to the point of losing money.
3) Their payments are always late.
Late payments can put a considerable constraint on small businesses, and the ripple effect can be felt on many levels. Late payments can prevent companies from making their payroll, paying their own vendors on time, and keeping up with their bills.
Before firing a client for late payments, always take reasonable steps to resolve the problem. However, if they continue to pay late and their late payments are preventing the company from being able to grow, you should cut them loose.
4) They make your team unhappy.
If a client's bad behavior is causing your employees to be unhappy working for you, it can be a huge problem. You don't want a toxic client to drive your top talent to the competition.
In her article, "3 Reasons Why the Customer Isn't Always Right," Inc. Columnist Candice Galek said it brilliantly: "If you listen to both sides and decide that your employee is right, then you need to side with your staff member. They aren't your servants. Treat them well, and be loyal to your staff. They will be happy working with you, and act loyal in return."
When I was dealing with the toxic client last week, I started to hate my job like I used to when I was working in the corporate world. Fortunately for me, the whole thing only lasted two hours before I terminated the meeting.
What type of message does it send to your employees if you are ok with them taking abuse from clients?
Never subject your employees to working with clients who make their lives miserable. Remember, your employees are worth much more than holding on for dear life to a toxic client.