Sometimes you have to fire your clients. That sounds almost wrong until you give it some thought. Early in entrepreneurial career, I would say “yes” to anyone willing to hire me. The reasoning was simple: I needed to eat and someone was willing to pay for what I had to offer. However, over the years I have lost a lot of money and opportunity courting and working with clients who were not strategically a good fit for my company. Until I realized the true cost of working outside my sweet spot, I continually jumped on every opportunity that came my way.
What I did not understand for a long time is that for every less-than-ideal client or project we pursued as a business and took on, we gave up the ability to find and work on the projects that were the most enjoyable, most profitable and, therefore, most successful. The allure of the sale-at-any-cost mindset actually cost us business and kept us from growing faster and stronger.
This frustration led us to develop the critical 3 P’s that we evaluate every ongoing and new opportunity that comes our way.
Some projects (even clients) are not profitable. In my experience the smaller the client, the more demanding and unprofitable they are. You usually spend the same amount of time and effort with less drama and more enjoyment on a larger project that’s much more lucrative. The best thing you can do for your business is fire unprofitable clients.
It is important for us to be a partner and not just a vendor. A true partnership is critical during large, complex or ambitious projects. It implies a trust between two parties and if we feel we don’t have that report going in, we usually don’t take the job. Some of our most successful projects have been true collaborations where there was a healthy give and take that made the final product the best it could be.
Not all of our clients are large. Some are small but with the right tools and guidance they have the potential to grow and become very profitable for us. We love finding partnerships that have lots of potential and helping them grow. I rather partner with a client that has potential than with a large-budget client that’s not completely sold on the partnership. Enthusiasm infuses a lot of creative energy into any project.
Have you ever fired a client in your line of work? What happened?