Let’s talk about a topic that many people don’t give much thought to. I’m talking about the matter of choosing the people you want to work with. It’s an integral part of any business person’s success, but we often get in the habit of taking customers as they walk in the door simply because they walked in the door. And once in a while, we find ourselves in a position where we wish we’d given it a little more thought.
Although many people agree that enjoying what you do at work is critical, for most people making money is higher up on the rating scale. It’s easy to develop the habit, especially in the early days of a startup business, of taking every sale and every customer that shows up because, well, that’s how you get your business off the ground. And most of the time, at least in the early years, you can make that work. Getting customers in the door provides momentum for the business and gives you the confidence to keep going, even when the going gets tough.
However… Just because a customer wants to do business with you doesn’t mean that they’re someone you’ll enjoy working with. And some customers just aren’t worth the hassle. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or rude. But the truth is, once in a while, you come across a customer who just isn’t a good fit.
These customers are often very high-maintenance. They’re demanding, and they have unrealistic expectations. They change their mind on a whim and then require that you change directions with them, regardless of the amount of work that’s already gone into the project or sale, and even when it’s detrimental to their business or goes against the agreed-upon strategy for success. Some customers even get downright abusive, either to my employees or to me. That doesn’t work in my book.
My strategy for dealing with customers like this is to cut the ties as quickly as possible. People that fall into this category will never be pleased, no matter what you do or how hard you try. Whenever I find myself dealing with a customer like this, I always try to remind myself that the real issue at the heart of all this is that I’m dealing with a very unhappy person. They’re probably needy, insecure, fearful, or one of several other characteristics that make people misbehave toward others in the workplace. Maybe they’re up for a promotion, and some young hotshot is making a move for it instead. Maybe they’re brand new to the company and are trying to establish their reputation as a badass. Or perhaps they’re stuck in an abusive relationship. Whatever the reason, if a few attempts to get things back on track don’t work, it’s time for them to go.
“Firing” a customer is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. And I’ve found that my revenues never suffer from a decision like this. In fact, getting rid of a customer who has been sucking all the positive energy out of me usually frees up mental and emotional space to bring in new customers who are awesome to work with. There’s nothing better than working with someone you really like. That’s the part that makes work not feel like work at all.
Staying true to yourself and your beliefs is critical to business success. And getting rid of customers who don’t line up with those beliefs is the right thing to do. How do you know if you’re dealing with someone like that? Think about how you feel after you have a conversation with them. If the answer is, “Icky,” then they probably need to be cut loose.
Give it some thought. What kind of customers do you have in your portfolio? What kind of customers do you want to do business with? If those two things are not in alignment, it’s time to make some changes. Be brave and “fire” the ones who need to go. Your business will thrive, and you’ll enjoy work much more as a result.