Gini Dietrich

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Fire a Client?

By: Gini Dietrich | January 26, 2012 | 
148

Yes, I know it’s Facebook question of the week time, but we’re trying something new this week.

You see, Social Fresh wrote last week about the best times of the week and day to blog, in order to get social shares.

Historically, Mondays and Tuesdays on Spin Sucks are our big days, but the Social Fresh research proves we might be missing something on Thursdays.

I’m curious to see if a blog post runs at 8 a.m. and the video runs at noon, if there is a difference both in traffic and social shares.

So Lisa Gerber has answered Barry Silver’s Facebook question and that will run at noon.

This morning, however, you get an intellectual discussion about when to determine it’s time to fire a client.

A Story

In late 2010, a friend called me and said he had the next big idea and was interested in working with us.

Having learned my lesson with this particular friend in the past, I refused to do any work or put anyone from my team on his business until he signed a contract and sent us a deposit.

He did.

And we got to work early last year. You see, his business was a me-too product in the daily deal space, but we were really excited about how they were building to differentiate themselves. We thought we had some great ideas for building some Groupon competition in Chicago.

And then…

In the very first meeting with our combined teams, he looked at my team and said, “Don’t screw this up or I’ll fire you.”

Whoa! Way to motivate!

My team was a little taken aback, but instead of listening to the red flags in my mind, I pushed forward and rebuilt everyone’s confidence to do some good work.

The meetings didn’t get much better. In some cases, he’d schedule meetings and not show up. In other cases, he’d have his right-hand person read us the riot act. On work that we hadn’t had enough time to complete.

This went on for the first month. We sent our second invoice.

Going into the fifth week of working with them, the Chicago Tribune wrote a story on the 40+ (!!!) daily deal sites in Chicago alone.

And our client was not included in the story.

To say I was yelled at is being nice. I’ve never had anyone, let alone a client, speak to me the way he did. I’ve never had someone use so much profanity in delivering a message. I had to tell him to call me back when he calmed down and I hung up the phone.

The funny thing? The client’s site wasn’t yet launched. Heck, it wasn’t even designed yet. So for us to have gotten them included in that story would have been nothing short of a miracle. Not to mention, we don’t typically pitch round-up stories like that for our clients, especially when there are 40 other businesses to compete with in 800 words.

I explained both points, but he didn’t care. There was no reasoning with him. Even the proposal we’d agreed on, just five weeks earlier, didn’t have a media relations component.

At that point, he and I agreed to go our separate ways and he never paid our second invoice, even though we’d done double the work he’d already paid for and, because of his 24/7 needs, I’d pulled nearly my entire team onto the account.

It hurt us fiscally. Badly. When I had our attorney send a letter, he responded by saying, “I’m not paying this invoice and, if you pursue it, I’ll have you and your business ruined. I’m very well-connected in Chicago and it won’t be hard to do.”

The Lesson

His response made me want to fight. I’m pretty sure I would have spent every penny we had fighting him. I would have let him put us out of business just to prove I was right.

I like to be right. And he treated us really poorly. I needed my team to see I was willing to fight for them.

My attorney was a bit more calm than me. We had a discussion about strategy and what it would take (both money and time) to fight to get the invoice paid. It would have ended up costing us more than double what he owed us. And he owed us a lot of money.

So I let it drop…as much as it still pains me to do so.

The moral of the lesson is you should always listen to your gut.

After that very first meeting, when I had all those red flags practically jumping out at me, I should have fired him.

It would have saved us a lot of time, a huge write-off, and my team’s morale.

Special thanks to Bourn Creative for the image.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

There are 148 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  
Please enter an e-mail address