Your Fired!

What a start to 2016! My month certainly flew by, probably because after a well-needed holiday break, I was highly motivated to make a strong start to the year. That I did, kicking off with a team reflection of 2015 to figure out how we could make 2016 even better.

The good news is that we had a lot of great wins with technology-based solutions and startups. We also saw unexpected successes in the publishing and food & beverage industries. We learned that we were selling a few services that were close to being loss leaders — in other words, they would really only be profitable if the clients bought more than one service or if they provided money-making referrals. Lastly we identified the clients to which we were mostly loyal — the ones that were nice, well-intentioned, but paid us next to nothing and were needy. What should we do with them?

Well, I think it’s okay to keep these kinds of clients, as long as you know you are getting some true value from them — maybe they’re in an interesting industry or you need the experience they are providing. BUT for these types of clients, be very wary of doing them a favor by providing complimentary work only because you want to be nice and ‘do the right thing’. Why do I say this? Because there is probably an intangible cost to these types of arrangements. Often these kinds of relationships build up unexpressed resentment on both sides, blowing up when you least expect it and likely creating irreparable damage. If you start to sense this could be starting, it’s probably time to ‘have a talk’.

Now these conversations are never easy, but they’re better than surprise arguments. Plus, if you are open and honest, most likely the client will understand and together you can come up with a better arrangement. On the off chance that the talk doesn’t happen as smoothly as you had hoped, then you need to be prepared to breakup — sometimes known as off-boarding, or firing, the client. It’s not always fun but it really is the right thing to do for both of you. It reinforces your value and probably your profitability, which is important even if you are a non-profit or non-government organization, or if you are looking for a tax write-off. And if you can also suggest an alternative provider, then that might also reinforce your original intention of doing the right thing.

Wishing you wisdom in 2016!

All my best,

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