Have you ever been frustrated with a client and feel like she just didn’t get the value of what you were offering her? Or had a client whom you fought with all the time? Or maybe just had one that you wished would go somewhere else?
If any of these situations sounds familiar, you probably put up with the client too long. In fact, you and your client would have been better off if you had fired him.
Most of the time, we, as business owners, rely on the client to leave the relationship when it isn’t working. But sometimes, the client either isn’t strong enough to leave, or they simply don’t fully understand what isn’t working. And in those cases, for the betterment of everyone, you need to take a stand and fire them.
When I had my first experience with firing a client, this is exactly what I wrote to end our relationship:
I don’t feel that I have any solutions for you that will fit into the way that you want to run your business. I feel like you are a square and I’m advocating solutions that are rectangles… and you aren’t willing to stretch to be a rectangle…. And there aren’t any good solutions that fit your square thinking…. As a result, I feel like there is little that I can offer you. That doesn’t mean I think you are a bad person or horrible to work with, just that our philosophy’s are simply not compatible, at least at this time. If you ever find yourself interested in trying something different, let me know. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck in your business.
She hadn’t recognized something that I had, namely that we were looking at the problem from perspectives that were at cross purposes and therefore we were not going to agree on ANY solution. I could have continued to fight with her and try to convince her to see things my way, but I choose instead to simply let her go.
Growing a business is a journey of self-improvement and it’s a very personal journey. So while I can see what issues are in the way of another business’s success, it isn’t always my job to fix them. What I can do is point them out and give the business owner the opportunity to do whatever feels right for him or her in that moment.
When I sent the above message to my client, I didn’t know how she would respond. It could have gone a lot of ways, many of them not good. But what I got back was this:
Well, let’s call it a day here but keep each other in mind for a future when it might be possible to work better together.
My client came back
And, lo and behold, I received an email from her about a month later wanting to work together again. And this time our relationship has a different feel to it. She’s more willing to let go of doing it all herself — although she’s still reluctant — and she’s more receptive to my ideas.
You might be tempted to think that we would have gotten here eventually, even if I hadn’t fired her. But I don’t think so. Very often, we don’t take people seriously who only speak their minds with words: its actions that make us sit up and take notice. So, if you are struggling with a client, maybe you need to do something differently. Show them there are consequences to their actions by imposing a fee for late requests…. or change your contract terms…. or even fire them.
Have you ever fired a client? Please share your stories in the comments.