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How to fire a client
4 reasons to fire a client – and how to do it professionally
Client relationships are complicated. They’re often part of a larger relationship, providing a “bridge” to other potential clients and to your industry. Sometimes they’re valuable for more than just money – connections, brand name recognition and portfolio-worthy work are all important, especially for small businesses.
If you’re considering how to fire a client, you’ve probably reached the end of your rope and see no other way out. You’re not necessarily wrong, but you do need to pause and consider your options.
As Tony explains it, “If you’re willing to do business with just anybody, you’re going to have a terrible business.” Firing a client can sometimes be part of recognizing the value of your business. You don’t need people who want to tear you down in your space.
Don’t run your business like a salesperson. You need to run your business like you’re the owner of something truly valuable – because you are.
When is firing a client the right thing to do?
Firing a customer/client is always a last resort. But if you’ve had honest conversations about your roadblocks and see no improvement, it could be time to consider how to fire the client – especially in these four situations.
1. They don’t listen to you
Your client hired you because you are the expert – or so you would think. But every businessperson has run into the “know-it-all” client. They don’t listen to your recommendations. They micromanage your projects. They directly contradict you on things you’re absolutely sure about. Sometimes it seems they purposely block you at every turn. It’s unprofessional at best and disrespectful at worst. And it’s always inefficient, costing you more money than you might realize. Firing a client or customer is almost always the right decision in this case.
2. There’s no communication
Does your client skip out on weekly meetings, take days to respond to emails and refuse to answer your calls? Do they disappear for days or weeks at a time, only to show up and demand something they never actually approved? Worse yet, maybe your customer doesn’t keep you updated on their own internal news, so you’re unexpectedly hit with changes in direction or company hierarchy. Poor communication is a sign that it’s time to start thinking about how to fire a customer.
3. They take up too much time
On the other hand, many clients communicate too much. They make demands that aren’t in their contract, expect immediate responses and don’t respect your deadlines. Time is money, and business is about making money.
Wondering how to fire a client? In this case, immediately! You may be tempted by a big, influential brand name that looks great on your website or by a personal connection that could come in handy down the line – but you must weigh these things against the time (and therefore money) you are losing by dealing with this client or customer every day.
4. You dread working with them
At the end of the day, you’re in charge of your own business. Your reason for firing a customer can be that you just don’t like working with them. Maybe they don’t respect your account managers or salespeople, are unpredictable on calls or in meetings or their personality just rubs you the wrong way. You avoid meetings whenever you can. If you or your employees are unhappy just thinking about your next client call, trust your gut.
Learn from Tony’s example on the empowering principle of when to fire or let go of the people holding you back and how to replace them with those who truly desire to be involved.
How to fire a client or customer
You may be set on firing a customer, but you don’t have to burn the bridge. These tips will help you do so professionally and courteously, leaving your relationship intact.
Fulfill your contract
It may not be the right time to fire a client if you’re in the middle of a big project or would be in breach of your contract. Breaking a contract early may require you to take less pay or to return a deposit from the client, among other consequences. It’s always best to fulfill your contract and finish your work before deciding how to fire a client.
Frame it professionally
It can be tempting to envision scenes where you tell off your customer once and for all. But the most vital piece of advice for how to fire a customer is not to let emotions get in the way. Always be professional – even if your client is not. Allow them the courtesy of meeting in person or video chat. Don’t play the blame game or get angry. And don’t make it personal. Like the breakup of a personal relationship, frame your reasoning as “It’s not you, it’s me”: Don’t lie, but don’t spill all the nasty details.
Provide a plan
No matter how big or small your industry is, people talk – and in any situation where you’re firing a client, you want to make sure you look polite and competent. Always suggest a replacement company that your ex-client can work with. It’s a professional courtesy that not only makes you look good, but could help out another business that’s a better fit. That’s good karma all around.
By protecting the value of your business or service, the perception and worth of your brand will skyrocket and you will end up delivering more to those who matter most.
Or, to quote Vince Lombardi, “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”