Posted by David Oates 4 years, 9 months ago

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Recently, I had to do something that I've never done before; fire a client part way through our agreement. The reason - the owner was a jerk; plain and simple.

Let me offer a bit of background (with names omitted). Over the past several months, this person has had a history of talking bad about team members behind their back, being disorganized and not getting information to us in a timely manner. My team and I put up with it, largely because none of these actions had been against us and we could get along building up their social media, web traffic and press coverage just fine. In fact, we were getting them some very good traction while also going above and beyond by doing other things not in our agreement, such as being the project manager lead on their website revision and making some new business introductions for them with folks we knew and trusted.

But things started to unravel about a month ago when the owner started to turn his proverbial guns on us. The first instance was a call this individual made to one of my team members at about 8:30pm on a school night. It was apparent that our contact had had a few, but still found the words to ask my team member to speak to a customer of his at that very moment about social media. Being customer service-oriented, my employee obliged but was not given any extra kudos by our client for doing so. As the days progressed, this person became not only erratic, but also downright mean. The final straw was when the owner blasted my team member on email for no real good reason. After a week of trying to shield my colleague from this abuse (and ensuring his continued rants were trained on me), I'd had enough.

From a business standpoint, the loss of a client hurts. It impacts profits (potentially to the point of not having any) and means the new business development efforts currently underway have to bear even greater fruit to make up for the lost revenue. But I'm here to tell you that it's all worth it. Letting employees suffer with bad clients will do more harm than good. It kills morale and demotivates people. In our case, if I had sucked it up and forced my team to continue working with this company, I would have potentially lost a rock star of an employee. Worse yet, I would have probably lost some long-term momentum for what we are trying to accomplish as a company - and that is changing an industry for the better by making it performance-based, instead of retainer based.

I would recommend any business owner act the same way. The bank accounts may not look as pretty in the short-term, but I firmly believe keeping the positive culture intact will ensure your company is around for a long-time to come; much longer than if you let a jerk of a client stay around.

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