Every entrepreneur will eventually fire an employee or severe a relationship with a supplier or vendor. These are the most common scenarios we associate with pink slips and the practice of doing business. However, there’s another we don’t often think about, or, only privately suffer because it’s difficult to own-up to a mistake. In this particular situation, you’ll have to fire a client and it can be very difficult to face. You must consider the financial impact, and, the dynamics [read: pain point] it will unleash on your business in the aftermath. You might be confronted with a negative review, an unpleasant back-and-forth, or even a total disruption of your business workplace.
Ways to Fire a Client
With the new year fast approaching, you’ve probably begun to focus on your personal and professional resolutions. One of them could very well be to purge toxic relationships, which include bad clients. These can be individuals who love to demand rather than delegate, micromanage work to the point there’s no real point someone else does any of it, insists on rushing which compromises quality, or other detrimental behaviors.
When you are just getting started with your business, you’re probably willing to work with any and every client who comes your way. However, not every client is a good one. The emotional, physical, and mental drain caused by a bad client relationship can keep you from enjoying your job and negatively impact the work you do for other clients. At times, the best way to grow your business is to let go of those clients who are holding you back. —Forbes.com
It could be a well paying client who has a penchant to promote pandemonium, one who expects deep discounts but superior work quality, wastes your time without remorse or even any acknowledgement of it. You know who he or she is because you dread any contact and even the sight mention of his or her name is enough to make you cringe. Still, you put-up with their bad conduct because you feel a sense of loyalty.
So, how are to you end such a relationship? Start with some genuine, introspective soul-searching. Is it something that you’re taking offense to that’s more about your personality? Are you contributing to the chaos with your own behavior? If you’re honestly not part of the problem, then try to resolve the situation first. Approach it subtly, but earnestly, and see what happens. If this doesn’t work, there are ways to fire a client and depending on the situation, one will probably be the best solution:
Inform the client you are refocusing your efforts. Every new entrepreneur will accept any type of work when first starting out, even if it’s not a strong-suit. At this early juncture, revenue flow is a top priority. However, it undermines and erodes the relationship over time. Use this to your advantage and explain how you are not serving his or her best interest. Point this out and gracefully bow-out.
Announce to the client you have to raise your rates. Money is a big deal — make no mistake about it. You know it to be true as does the professional who’s always espousing the healthy attributes of professional relationships, giving back to the community, good will, and the like. While those are indeed wonderful things, money is a practical part of business and announcing you’re raising your rates might just be the nudge which sets you free.
Give him or her options for other service providers. Explain you are moving in a direction to serve a specific subset of your clientele. Along with it, give him or her options, recommending different competitors.
Manage his or her expectations by providing actionable steps. Some clients will resist ending the relationship at nearly any cost. They’ll make promises about changing their behavior, bringing you more business, or other saving graces. Since you want to sever the relationship cleanly and permanently, provide a list of actionable steps he or she can take without your assistance.
If you aren’t necessarily dealing with a problem client, just one who is no longer profitable, but still pays on-time and is good-natured, speak with less expensive, alternative service providers and give them the business. This creates a win-win scenario for all parties.
In my past businesses and as a business consultant and coach, I have experience in each of these circumstances with customers and clients. I have found that the best approach is an honest approach with a strong dose of caring and encouragement. So, what customers will you fire or have that crucial conversation with in 2016?