Smart small businesses know the meaning of an extremely important concept: bad business. In this post, I want to remind you that you shouldn’t take all comers. Nor should you treat all of your current customers equally.
Karma and The Golden Rule
As a small business owner, I realize that I can’t do everything myself. I have no Superman Complex. So in order to be successful, I need to find people who routinely provide outstanding service. When in the market for a new vendor, I often think about The Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Because I’ll pay for quality, I set the bar high for my vendors. I’m fortunate enough to have some great people working with me. In turn, I routinely recommend them to others. I become my vendors’ biggest advocate — the same way that I want my clients to go to bat for me. It would be very hard for me to work with people who consistently missed their deadlines and/or exceeded their initial budgets by ghastly sums.
My vendors like working for me because I do the following:
- Pay them on time
- Send business their way
- Clearly state what I need and by when
- Don’t make them hit moving targets
- Respond quickly when the need my input
Again, Do Unto Others…
All too often, I hear about how these amazing business owners encounter bipolar, demanding, indecisive, difficult clients (not me, I assure you). They have picked up the phone to vent to me. Essentially, they wish they could fire their clients.
And they can. It’s not that hard.
A Little Yarn
A few years ago, I did some consulting for a guy who drove me nuts. This guy was a real peach.
- He was unclear about the specific things he wanted from me
- He expected me to drop whatever I was doing whenever he had fifteen minutes
- He questioned my billable hours
- He became upset when I couldn’t read his mind
- To boot, he conveniently forgot to pay me for six weeks past my invoice’s terms
Throughout the entire project, I did my best to keep up a professional face. And, needless to say, when that client came calling again a few months later, I politely declined.
I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal here. (OK, maybe a little.) But the lesson here is to recognize that some clients are far more trouble than they are worth. If it’s too late to cut them off, think about firing them after your current engagements end.
Some people will call you crazy for turning down work in a downward economy. Pay them no heed. You as a small business owner call the shots. No senior partner or VP of Division ABC tells you what to do. You are intelligent and mature enough to make your own decisions. In any economy, some clients are far more trouble than they’re worth.
Do yourself a favor: get rid of them.
What say you?
Freelance Switch offers up some interesting information on identifying and dealing with difficult clients.
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Phil Simon is a recognized technology expert and writer. He is the author of several books including, most recently, The New Small. He can be followed at http://www.philsimonsystems.com/. Phil is not a Pitney Bowes employee and shares his insights on this blog as a paid contributor.