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5 Signs You Should Fire Your Biggest Client

This topic may come as a surprise to some and others may be wrestling with this conundrum as you read through. If you are a B2B service company and have been in business long enough, you have at one point, found yourself contemplating this decision. 

Bagging the elephant is what many companies shoot for. Although these can be very profitable and present great growth opportunities, you must be careful not to put your business in a compromising and stressful situation. 
I’m wrote this article to help you reach an informed decision if you find yourself having to deal with the following circumstances:
1. Your clients don’t listen, always know best or don’t value your professional opinion.
This can be a tough situation especially when you are in a consulting position since you are being paid to strategize. At times you will face situations where you know what it will take to be successful on a project but your client insists you do it their way.
In this situation you need to be direct, straight forward, and you need to stand your ground. Do not agree to take on a project or stick with a client you know is destined for failure because they are unwilling to change. If they refuse to take your advice, politely decline to do business with them and refer them to your biggest competitor. Seth Godin said it best, “If the customer is wrong, they are not your customer anymore.” Don’t let your client drag you down with them. Your client’s refusal to change for the better will only attach you to their failing strategy and worse, this will eventually be blamed on you and may even get you fired. The integrity of your work and your credibility are far too important to put on the line for profit.
2. Your clients have unrealistic expectations. 
Setting realistic expectations is one important way to keep your clients happy and measure your success. Now if your clients have unrealistic demands that you might be tempted to take on, take a moment to think before you promise goals you just can’t possibly deliver. You will definitely damage your credibility and infuriate your client come time to deliver the goods.
If your client is constantly bullying you into committing to expectations that are just impossible to achieve such as unrealistic deadlines, results, or budget, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) give in. One way or another, you will be on the losing end of the stick. Clients who tend to be this way will be problematic to keep. They will be constantly unsatisfied, pressuring you to meet their unrealistic demands. These clients will end up draining your resources and will horde your best work. You need to reserve your best for the patient, respectful, and positive clients that come your way. 
3. Your clients are undergoing a corporate takeover or a newer entity is in control.
So there’s a new group of people in the picture now. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, this scenario can easily go awry without the proper mechanisms in place. When a new company steps in to take over your client’s business, there are a few important things to do for a smooth transition. After getting the general pleasantries out of the way, you must sit down with your client to re-evaluate their strategy and discuss important questions:
  • Are they aware and in agreement with the terms of your contract?
  • Do they still have the same values and expectations
  • Are they ferrying the company into a different direction? 
  • Do they have a clear idea of what your role is, the scope of your service, and the value you bring to their company?
  • Who is your new point of contact in your client’s company?
Failing to get these ironed out can create devastating consequences down the road. Now if you have had this discussion with your client and it is becoming apparent that you are not in the same page when it comes to goals and terms of service, you must submit yourself to an honest reflection of where this relationship is headed and if it’s worth staying for. If the differences between you and your new client are fundamentally too deep, it’s best to terminate the relationship. Sometimes this type of relationship only work on a fresh slate. 
4. Your clients are unresponsive and indecisive.
If a big part of your work relies on the approval of your clients and they haven’t responded in a while, preventing you from accomplishing your work, it’s time to reconsider your relationship. Failing to respond despite attempts of getting in touch with your clients is most definitely a red flag. At this point, you should pause the work you’re doing for them until you hear back. Once you pause, try your best to get a hold of your client and get them to respond. If you find that this is a recurring situation causing you to lose time, money, and impeding your productivity, it’s time to let them go. 
5. Your clients are slow to pay.
Now this is one is a no-brainer. Consistently failing to pay on time is a red flag for potentially bigger problems down the road. If your clients are constantly missing their billing due dates, you should arrange a meeting to figure out why this is the case and assess whether or not you should terminate your relationship. Are they having issues with cash flow? Do they not value your service and therefore don’t feel the need to pay on time? While their reason might warrant a little leeway and an initial warning before terminating your relationship, you shouldn’t make it easy for your clients to abuse your willingness to consider their circumstance. 
If they’re behind by a month, talk to them immediately to figure out what’s causing the delay. If they’re behind by two months, put your work on hold until they pay. On the third month of failing to pay, you should terminate the contract and consult your lawyer about collecting what your clients owe. To avoid this giant mess a-brewing, you should consider firing clients who notoriously fail to pay on time.
Even if you are on friendly terms with your client and may not want to part with them, you have to be pragmatic. At the end of the day, they’re taking up spots for other clients that would like to hire you for your service and would pay in a timely manner.
Firing a client is not an easy decision to make but is sometimes a necessary step to take for the sake of success. Ultimately, if your goal is to grow your company and to foster sustainable success, you must weed out the clients who are damaging your credibility, costing you resources without profitable returns, impeding your growth and productivity, or causing unnecessary stress.
It takes guts to fire a problematic client, especially if they are paying a sizeable amount of money but you should never compromise your success for the sake of profiting. You may be satisfied with getting paid now but keeping these types of clients on will only backfire and cause negative consequences down the road.
Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and do what ou must to protect the integrity of your business. If you make a decision to fire your client, don’t be a jerk about it. Be clear and straightforward. Explain your decision politely and don’t be resentful. Spend your time with clients that value your work and respect you as a partner.
This article was originally published by Adhere Creative
Published: March 3, 2014

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