Being an entrepreneur is tricky enough with it’s steep learning curve and multitude of tasks and things to remember every day. One of the trickiest things to learn as an entrepreneur is when it is time to ‘Fire a Client’ – Many new entrepreneurs gasp at this and think they will NEVER do that! It’s natural to feel that way as you are beginning a new business venture, but not all business relationships are positive. It is one of the most commonly shared issues and conversations amongst entrepreneurs – if you mention the phrase ‘problem client’ a room full of business people will nod their heads. We’ve all been there. As you mature in your skills and knowledge you will realize that firing a client is one of the best things you can do for your business should the situation arise where it becomes necessary. KNOWING what to look for before even entering into a relationship with them is preferable, but even the most seasoned entrepreneur can miss things. Red Flags that appear early on can be easily looked over, justified and just ignored. This is no fault of your own, your goal is to find ways to work together, to collaborate, to connect, and of course the basic: Each client translates to more income for you and your business – you’ll be so driven by these things that you will undoubtedly miss the signs when they appear.
That’s ok – if you suddenly find yourself dreading a phone call, or any communication with one of your clients, then it is time to reassess this relationship. Is it serving you and your business? Is the stress and anxiety allowing you to serve your client in the best way possible? If it is the wrong situation, likely not.
Here are EIGHT things to look for when your intuition starts telling you that something is not right.
LACK OF RESPECT
This one shows up pretty early, so it’s helpful for assessing if this relationship should continue. Like ANY relationship, personally or in business, mutual respect is crucial to generate trust. This needs to work BOTH ways. If your client doesn’t respect you as a business person he or she may undermine your work, second guess your decisions and even treat you and your employees as subordinates. REFUSE to put up with this.
A toxic relationship is a toxic relationship whether it is a personal one or a business one. For business, there is no amount of money that is worth putting up with this behavior. On the flip side, if you don’t find that you respect your client due to their values, behavior or the like – the same applies. It is important to remember that here is no obligation to continue the relationship at any time – if it is stressful, not aligned and respect is lacking, it is within your control and power to end it.
REMEMBER: If it costs you your peace, it is too expensive.
CLIENT DOMINATES YOUR WORK AND IGNORES RECOMMENDATIONS
Your client hired YOU as the expert in your field to support them. Your client may know their business and brand the best, but they hired you to do what you know how to do, so they need to let you do it. You are the expert in your strategies and practices to do the best job possible. When your client refuses to listen and respond to your recommendations, they weaken the success rate for both them and yourself. Micromanaging, ignoring, taking a direction that you don’t advise are all danger signs – this relationship will not evolve into anything positive and it is time to let it go.
REMEMBER: YOU are the expert, they hired you to do this job, they need to let you do it.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
No matter what your type of business, for any client relationship to be successful there needs to be effective and established lines of communication between you. You will need to be constantly be connecting to offer suggestions, guidance, feedback, answer questions etc. And your client will also need to respond with questions of their own, guidance and suggestions around their business and their brand. If your client isn’t willing to put in the time and effort needed to maintain effective communication then your level of service to them will naturally decline, and the relationship will decline along with it. Aim to resolve these issues first, BUT if communication values and style are not compatible, there is not much you can do to fix this situation and your problems will likely get worse the longer you carry on.
REMEMBER: Effective communication is the foundation of all successful relationships both personally and in business.
CLIENT TAKES UP TOO MUCH TIME
When a client insists upon utilizing a majority of your time, and time that is not part of your contract or agreement, there is going to be trouble. At the end of the day, you are in business and you are running a business. If a particular client ends up costing you money in time spent with them over and above what they are worth, then you are sacrificing your business success for this client. For any business to be successful you need to earn more money than you spend – time IS money – so if your client is not adequately compensating you for time spent, then logically it is time to end this dynamic as it is costing you money and your continued success.
There are times when going ‘over and above’ may serve as a good strategy for your business – especially when that client relationship has the potential to be more lucrative in the way of referrals, bigger contracts, and other positive connections – but ensure that you are not sacrificing any of your own values to serve this person. There still needs to be a balance.
REMEMBER: Your time is your money – wisely choose how you spend it.
THINGS AREN’T RESOLVING
Many of the issues listed here can appear in milder forms with some relationships – and firing a client is always the last resort. There are many times that these things can be worked out – It’s always good to assess if they can actually be resolved and make an effort to do so. Although, if this person continues to seriously and directly affect your work and your dynamic and things don’t get better no matter how much effort you have put into it, then it is time to let go and move on. Trust your intuition – it will tell you when it is time to work harder and when it is time to let go.
REMEMBER: You cannot get blood from a stone – know when to surrender to the reality.
YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR CLIENT
As entrepreneurs, especially women in business, we can falsely believe that it is up to us to make everything work and it is our responsibility to fix all the issues. This simply is not true. No amount of money, future promise, or reputation is worth your peace of mind and joy in doing the work you do. This is the most obvious sign on this list, but also the most overlooked since we often do not trust our instincts and intuition that tells us these things right at the beginning. If we listen, we can avoid having to get to the place of firing at all, but more often than not, we forge forward believing that we can change things, make them better and work harder. If it is not a good match, it is not a good match. Period. Relationships need common values, goals and a vision together to make it work. Ensure that your clients are on the same page as you and that they are as motivated to collaborate positively as you are.
REMEMBER: Your joy and happiness is your responsibility. Refuse to allow drama and toxic relationships into your life. You are the master of your domain.
CLIENT DOESN’T VALUE YOUR WORK
It is pretty clear when a client doesn’t value your work. They will dislike your recommendations, or ignore them. They will second guess everything you say and ask them to do. They will demand more of your time and then proceed to break apart every suggestion and consult you give. They will argue over your pricing and be late in paying you. A consistently ‘late payer’ is enough to warrant a firing in itself. Everything you do for the client is energy that gets sucked into a black hole – nothing is being created and collaboration is non existent. This is demeaning and it often is a mirror to how much you value yourself. It’s time to be clear on your own value and move on.
REMEMBER: Learn to value yourself and you will never allow someone in your life who doesn’t value you.
There is one more SIGN that is the most important when knowing it’s time to let a client go…
YOU FEEL IMMEDIATE PEACE WHEN YOU FIRE THE CLIENT
This sign happens AFTER you have disconnected. If you feel immense peace, relief and acceptance around your decision, you know you’ve made the right one. The hardest part is allowing ourselves to make the decision in the first place since we feel we ‘might’ be wrong. It doesn’t matter, even if you are wrong – if the relationship created stress in your life, it’s not something you want to hold on to. In life, we get what we focus on the most. The Law of Attraction principles work in this way. What you tolerate, you will get. So, aim to attract experiences that bring you joy and when some happen along that cause you anxiety, mark them up as more learning, do what you need to do to eliminate them and then be even clearer on what you need.
REMEMBER: What you tolerate in your life you will get – learn to be your own biggest ally and support yourself in attracting positive relationships by refusing to tolerate the toxic ones.
All of these are important signs to look for, and will likely help you make this decision, but truly, if you dig down deep enough you will realize you have known for quite a while that this wasn’t going to work out. Acceptance is the hard part, and it will likely feel awful to realize this truth – that is ok. It should feel awful! There is grief to be processed since this relationship started off with high hopes and great potential. When those goals and vision don’t manifest, it is a loss. Just because you are in business, does not mean you are not human. Allow yourself to feel the loss and frustration of this – it is healthy to do so. Then, once you have processed, you will be clearer and ready to make the decision that needs to be made.
Learn to spot the signs and learn to trust yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t right. Do everyone a favour and terminate the relationship quickly so that you can move on to clients who value you and will provide a positive experience – this is your life afterall, aim to live it on your terms.