Somebody mentioned “firing a client” the other day. I’ve never liked that phrase, but I get the notion of a professional relationship that needs to change or even end. Don’t you?
When it comes to firing offenses, the main complaints are over-the-top expectations; whining, complaining, even abusive language; and foot-dragging when it’s time to pay the bills.
Happily, I don’t run into those things with my clients – they’re mostly delightful people. Also, my work with them is relatively short-term; three months is typical. I suspect professionals whose clients make them miserable have longer relationships.
And yes, a graceful exit can be better than continuing to suffer excessive demands and missed appointments and late payments. There’s something to be said for clearing away relationships that have turned toxic. It makes way for new ones.
Sometimes it’s not a specific customer, but a category we need to change.
I could relate to this from “A Consultant’s Guide to Firing a Client” in the Harvard Business Review: “As you learn more and grow your brand, you may need to move upmarket and work with a different set of clients who don’t blink at what you’re worth.”
You get tired of the people who do blink, don’t you? A lot of the advice about ending a client relationship has to do with haggling over fees.
Rather than constantly having to defend your value, it seems best to seek out that different set of clients. The ones who need what you have to offer and are willing to pay for it.
Moving upmarket may require another change.
Where do you find this new category of clients? It’s likely not where you were finding the old ones.
That means letting go of groups where you’re meeting and mingling with people who don’t have – or won’t spend – the money for your services. And exploring new organizations where you can connect with people who are a better fit.
Some of us find that easier than others. I have friends who don’t think twice about quitting a group that no longer meets their networking needs. Not me. (Apparently I get too attached.) There are a couple of groups I should leave; I can’t quite manage to close the door.
Clearly, it’s time for spring cleaning on my networking calendar.
Tough as it is to terminate a client relationship. Or switch to a new market. Or decide not to renew a membership …
No business break-up is more problematic than a partnership.
This is why lawyers and accountants (and therapists) have so many stories to tell about partnerships gone south. One-time business buddies can turn on each other when the going gets tough. And let’s face it, the going almost always gets tough sooner or later.
Many lawyers advise their clients not to team up in the first place just to avoid the headache of dissolving the business later on. And most insist on a pre-nup of sorts. An ownership agreement that spells out everything, including an exit plan just in case.
Without that plan, a termination can get sticky. Some experts advise that each partner get an attorney to extricate them. Although you can also go online for a DIY partnership dissolution agreement.
It is possible to handle the whole thing well. I went into business with my friend Karen Hand. Eventually we went out of business. Paid off an unfortunate amount of company debt. And … remained friends. I will say people are often surprised that we’re still speaking to each other.
And now? I like working on a project with a partner. Your experience may be different; some business gurus say the primary reason entrepreneurs partner up is their fear of going it alone.
But I think there’s good creative energy in the right partnership.
You know Lisa Kaplin and I offer Free Your Voice and Be Heard for women who are tired of being overlooked and under-listened-to. (Put June 23 on your calendar now.) And I’ll be doing another event with Kelly Epperson this fall, On the Page & On the Stage.
Combining expertise can serve clients especially well. There’s cross-over to consider; each person in a partnership brings potential clients to the other one. And … it’s fun.
I’m curious about your experience with partners, clients and other associates. When it’s time to clear things out and start fresh … how do you do it? Tell us about your professional spring cleaning.