Firing Clients for Fun and Profit

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This is actually an extremely serious topic. This took me a long time to learn because I absolutely LOVE people, so when I look at a client, I look at so much more than them as just a means of making money. I want to truly help my clients, and I look at their business the same way I look at mine, and with the same serious scope.

I get attached and connected to my clients, which allows me to do what I do, but it can also make it really hard for me to let go of clients that aren’t really a great fit with my company, my needs, or my mission.

So how do you know if you’re doing the right thing, if you need to get rid of a client, or if you can find a way to make it work amazingly. Make sure you’re not making one of the following sacrifices. If you are, maybe it’s time to restructure the agreement or let that client go.

1. Sacrificing Yourself

Has a client ever been able to stress you out simply by calling? You see their name on your phone and your heart rate immediately raises? If you feel like you can’t work with a client or that working with them makes you feel horrible, you’ve got to consider how that affects not only you personally, but your business as a whole.

2. Sacrificing Your family

Some clients feel like they should have access to you all the time. They don’t really seem to understand why you can’t answer when you’re spending time with your family. If you have a client who not only requires that kind of constant communication, but who gets upset with you for being unavailable, that can be extremely damaging on your relationship with your cient, as well as frustrating for you and your family.

3. Sacrificing Other Clients

If one clients takes 80% of your hours, that’s time that’s being taken away from your other clients. This is especially difficult when you have extremely rewarding clients that you love working with, but it’s one of the more difficult clients that takes up the majority of your time. You could potentially do more with your other clients, but you’ll never find out if you’re trapped with that other guy.

4. Sacrificing Your Business

This has more to do with your business model, the structure of how you do business, and where your business is going. Sometimes your ultimate dreams are out of line with the clients you acquire at earlier stages. Eventually it can come down to where your clients just don’t fit who you are anymore just because of the way your business has grown. This can mean transitioning your clients to a new model, so you don’t have to give them up to move forward even faster.

5. Sacrificing Your Morals or Ideals

If you have a client who is asking you to do something that you are morally opposed to or, more commonly, asking you to do something that is off track from what you believe is right, you may need to cut those relationships. You want to work with people who are in line with what you believe in order to cultivate an amazing base of people that can really benefit you, your family, and your business.

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Full Transcript:

Hey everybody. It is Joel Bower, co-founder of Skirmish Strategies and Business Leverage Expert. Today, we're going to cover ‘Firing Clients for Fun and Profit’. It's a little bit of a flipping title on something that I actually think is extremely serious, so I just want to cover that.

One of the reasons that I had so much trouble learning this particular piece in my business is that I absolutely love people. When I'm working with a client, I'm looking at so much more than just helping them with their business, and their business is separate from mine. I'm looking to build a relationship of trust and the ability to truly help them. And, I actually feel ownership of their business. Not that I own a piece of it, but I would look at it the way I would solve my own business.

As they describe a problem, I'm not just going; "Okay, well, that's your issue. I'll just give you this slight thing." No, I'm thinking what I would do in their situation. I start talking about the feeling of “we're going to move this forward” and “we're going to make that happen” because I love businesses, and I love people. So together, this is a really hard one because I get attached. I get connected to them in a way that just allows me to do what I do, honestly. That's why I've done such a great job with my clients. I do really care about them and their businesses.

When I'm talking about this, it’s kind of a flipping title to connect to people, to get them to start thinking about it a little bit, but it does cost you money. And, it does cost enjoyment if this is done incorrectly. Sometimes, your business has grown to a level, or a client is just not someone that is behaving well for what you need in your business to grow, or it’s just your general enjoyment in life. And, something has to be done. 

What I want to do is to actually give you some indicators because I know so many people are in these situations, and they're constantly questioning; “Am I doing the right thing?” “Is it me?” “Is it them?” “Am I just not...” “Have I done something wrong if I actually let them go?” When I say let them go or fire them, I do not mean just run. I mean, make sure that you actually have a transition plan in mind that really takes care of them.

When I came into an agreement with a client, there were, generally, things that I promised that I was going to do, things that I was going to help them achieve. I still want to make sure that's on track. I don't want them to lose everything that I've been building because it's in my head, and they don't get access to it. I want to make sure that they're in a great place, so I will work out some sort of way to allow us to get to a “win-win”. Whatever the difficulties are, I will open, generally, with a conversation with them and work through as much of that as we can. Maybe, we can get to an agreement where it still works. I just need some concessions on what exactly I have to do. And then, I could, maybe, have these other things that are actually better for them than what they’re originally doing.

How do I establish these? How do I find when an agreement really has gone in the wrong direction? I think of it as sacrifices. I look at the five sacrifices that I'd be making in order to keep this client as a client.

The first one and the most obvious one is if I feel like I'm sacrificing myself, my enjoyment, my love of my business. You know that feeling when a client calls, and you're stressed immediately. That's a feeling I don't want on a daily basis. In order to take care of myself, if I'm sacrificing any part of myself, I have to think about that. I either have to restructure the agreement, or I have to get out of it. Look at that. If you start feeling like; "Man, I just can't work with this client. I don't even know if I can get them results they want. This feels horrible. I'm stressed out of my mind. They're taking more time than ever. Everything's always a crisis or a problem." You got to do something. You can't have that level of stress in your business when you really got to grow so much more. And, there are other people counting on you and depending on you. You've got to be able to take control of them.

Secondly, if I ever feel like my family is taking a major sacrifice because of them, that might be someone that thinks; “Because I hired you to do this piece, I have access to you all the time.” That's where they think they can call on nights and weekends. And no matter what, if they don't get you on nights and weekends, they're mad. They're very upset with you, or they're bothering you on vacations. You can't say, "Hey, I'm going to be out with my family for a week," and they leave you be. That's something you just got to look at. 

There's one thing like sending you emails. That's one thing if it's really light. And, they're just trying to keep you informed and give you information versus them requiring your response that you have to step away from your family and do something with them in order to make your client happy. That's a sacrifice that I'm not willing to make.

The next is other clients. If you think about it, your clients, especially at the same level, it's very easy to see if they're all paying for the same service and getting the same service. If one client is taking 80% of your time, of your hours, that's the time that's being taken away from people that may become your best clients, the ones that are very rewarding and exciting to work with and don't require much time. They love working with you, and they just want that little bit, that next step, that next jump. You can give it to them. It's so rewarding when you get to those really powerful relationships that don't take a ton of time, but the time that you do spend is impactful. That's what I generally look for. 

If you need to spend 80% of your overall time with a single client, you are taking that time from those clients. Maybe, you could do more with them. Maybe, you could take them to the next level. Maybe, you could get more like that. There are people out there that aren't even getting the benefit of working with you and getting all the things that you can add to their business right now because you're spending all of your time with this other client that's really taking from you.

This doesn't mean that they're bad. This doesn't mean that they're bad people. Sometimes, they just have different views of the world. In their world, maybe it's to know that you're serious about businesses, that you're always “on”. You're always doing it. You're always moving. I do believe in some of that, until to the point it starts affecting everybody else, my own stress level, my family, and my other clients. I'm taking so much from the people who really are rewarding to work with to meet the standards of this person. And, that's an easy conversation; "Hey, we have different views of the world and how business works. These are the kind of the grievances that I have. At that point, these are the things that I'm thinking about that are really tough for me to manage with. If that doesn't work for you and you need that, I might not be your guy, and that's okay. We'll figure out how to take care of you." If you come from that angle, it's a lot easier to just admit what it really is. It's not trying to villainize someone or make them at fault.

Another one is your business. What I'm thinking about there is the business model, the structure of how you do business and where you're going. Your business will naturally grow. As you're kind of moving things on, it'll start to grow. At some point, how it's grown or where you're headed or what you're focused on, and where you want to go is going to be out of mesh with some of your clients. That happens. Sometimes, maybe the payment structure that they had or the access they had to you had to change because your business has grown to a level that's no longer available, or you can't do it that way. That happens a lot, and people get stuck in businesses for years because they won't answer this. This client just isn't fitting where we're going.

It's not their fault. It's not our fault, but we have to be honest and do something about it. We have to get a transition planned or to switch over how they're being treated or how they're being interacted with so that both parties are being taken care of in a great way, maybe just not in the way they had been. That to me is a series of conversation or a transition piece or maybe just reworking a negotiation of what has to happen there and what they really need. That can clear up a lot of that space and allow your business to keep moving and keep growing because it has to. That's how your business survives and gets to levels of things that you're dreaming of building since you started your business. That's how you have to get there. Sometimes, it takes transitions. It takes switches. Not everybody is going to come right along. It just can't. It'll actually damage the business, so handle those.

The last one I want to cover, and it should be clear for most people. But, I just want to say it because I've seen people actually trapped in it because they probably have a similar model that I do –that I love people and I care about people. I feel attached to the business that I'm working with, but if ever the client is asking you to interact in something that is wrong or even when you know that they're doing something wrong, you need to get out of that. That's both some of the things you think are morally or ethically wrong. Definitely, get the hell away from that.

The second piece is things that you think that are just kind of off-course. That might be that you might not be able to help them. If you are advising one way and they say; "No, we're absolutely going this way," and if they're crazy stubborn about it, there's no way. But, you know that in that path, the way they're choosing, that you can no longer serve them or help them with your talents and skills. It's honorable to really just take a step back and go; "Hey, this is not what I can do and what I can deliver. Where we started, these are my key areas. This is what I do really well, and this is where I can help you. Can I still help you in those areas?" That is not morally wrong. I think you need to get out of that. If you think there's something really wrong happening there, get out of there. If it's something just off-track or a different track path than you would choose, then handle that way by just offering, being clear with what you came to offer, where you're going to deliver the most value, and then renegotiate that agreement.

If any of those sacrifices are happening to you because of your clients, start looking at transition plans. Start to have maybe more honest open conversations with them. See, if you can get it corrected on the front-end, and then, it's not even an issue. You don't actually have to fire a client. You just get to move them to a contract that really works for both parties. Do that. Take care of yourself. Take care of your family. Take care of your business, and you'll get the success that you want. All the guilt of letting a client go and stuff, that can be handled by being very careful, by really thinking through how both parties win. It doesn't have to be a bad thing.

This is definitely a place where it's a lot easier to make more money than how you were doing before because it takes a lot when you feel stressed or pulled or really kind of sapped because of the time you're spending somewhere or on something you're not enjoying doing anymore. Get out there. Take care of yourself and every other part of your business. Really start building the client base that you want and need, and build your business. Thank you guys so much.