Gini Dietrich

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

By: Gini Dietrich | January 26, 2012 | 

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • This is a tough one for a startup when you’re starved for cash. Two years ago I took on anybody who would come my way. And perhaps I needed to do that. Since then, I’ve learned a few of the signs that will show me when something isn’t going to work out. As my business model has evolved, and my approach has evolved, I now know when someone doesn’t get it. After a first meeting, and then submitting a proposal, the conversation can turn in one of two directions. If it goes one way, we’re ok. But if it goes the other, and there’s lots of hemming and hawing, I know it’s time to walk before we even reach an agreement.

    I’ve had to fire a few clients based on their lack of desire. While I don’t do outsourced management, it’s clear that’s all a lot of businesses want, and if they have that mindset, no thanks. I’m making a commitment to help them. If they don’t want to keep up their end of the bargain, I tell them, give them a chance, and then walk if the response isn’t satisfactory.

    Sure, i make less money, but I’m also far less stressed and frustrated. That’s a fair tradeoff.

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller I don’t think, in the long run though, you do make less money. We lost a TON of money on this client. We would have been better off not working with him at all…if I’d just listened to my gut. Sometimes we see the cash as the only ROI.

  • You said it Gini, “ignoring the red flags”.

    We have all been there, hiring the wrong client.

    I used the word hire because they become a part of our success (or a major challenge).

    The last client I fired was a large airline. It was two years ago, we were in London on holidays and the Vp emailed requesting a meeting. I asked her what the purpose of the meeting was and she kept arguing that I had to come to the meeting to find out.

    At which point I picked up the phone but she stayed cryptic. I wasn’t about to fly 8hours for no-reason so I told her I need a pretty good reason to cancel my holidays and come to a “meeting”.

    At that point she decided to become very abusive towards ameenafalchetto who had dealt with her more than me in the past. That was the end.

    Lesson learned: interview and screen all my clients. I don’t I don’t fit with everyone and I’m happy that way.

    The loss of time, peace of mind and financial loss isn’t worth it.

    • ginidietrich

      @John Falchetto And, even more, it’s not worth the loss of family time.

  • Great lesson! What a way to start a relationship!

    I fired a few clients in the past – the pain of dealing with nightmare clients can really take it’s toll on your confidence, your energy, and abilities.

    I’ll never forget the client who said “I am paying you so you WILL do it!” Urrr … actually dude, I can’t and this is the last time you’ll pay me for anything – this was a few months into my first business and I remember being really torn, and upset but firing that client taught me a lot about knowing what I’m worth and making the boundaries super clear in my mind.

    As @John Falchetto said, we’d had an experience a few months later with another client – and well, I didn’t take kindly to the aggressiveness from the client … we moved on from that relationship

    • ginidietrich

      @Ameenafalchetto That mindset is one where they believe you work FOR them, not with them. No one is successful that way. The best relationships we have with clients is where they completely integrate us into their businesses. We’ve seen a lot of clients promoted because of the things we helped them do. They remember that kind of stuff.

  • Send me his name. His address. His phone number. I am really well connected with Aliens in Chicago. I can have him turned into gutter soot in no time.

    I’m being serious.

    Very tough situation Gini. Much easier when you are overflowing with business than when you need business. Thanks for the great insights.

    Yes gutter soot. Offer is open ended. I am a problem solver you know that.

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM I shall speak to you offline about this. 🙂 In all seriousness, there is a part of me that STILL wants to have his legs chopped off at the knees.

  • G- you are my hero.

    • ginidietrich

      @faybiz LOL! For making such a big mistake?! Ah…at least I learned from it.

      • @ginidietrich that is why you are my hero- as well as the fact that you shared it… not hard to own success…

  • Always a tough call. Part of you doesn’t want to, as you feel you’ve failed the client. But then there’s the part where the client thinks they know best, or go against your advice, or screw things up themselves by their actions and blame you.

    Life’s too short – spend time with those that actually want to work together as opposed to the arrogant assholes who wouldn’t know the best approach to something if it was right there in front of them.

    • ginidietrich

      @DannyBrown Life IS too short. And you’re right…I’d much rather spend my working days with people I like. Present company excluded, of course.

      • @ginidietrich Bite me.

        • ginidietrich

          @DannyBrown Smooches!!

        • @DannyBrown@ginidietrich That’s the Danny that I know and love. 🙂

        • @jasonkonopinski @ginidietrich :0)

  • But he’s still a friend, right? 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @Sean McGinnis Um, no.

  • ginidietrich

    @MichaelBowers Obey your gut, really

  • Great post Gini. I place a high value on peace of mind and not dreading a meeting on my calendar. It sounds like you had neither of those things in dealing with this client. We have to remember that a client relationship is just that. A RELATIONSHIP. As such, it’s a two way street. If it turns into a one way street, like your situation, give ’em the boot.

    Feel your pain on wanting to be right. I’m sure I would have had the exact same reaction. Except I probably would have been screaming profanity back at them.

    • ginidietrich

      @MattLaCasse When it’s so new, you think, “Oh it’ll get better when we start delivering results.” But, in retrospect, if you aren’t still in the honeymoon phase in the first month, something is wrong.

  • Wow. That’s awful, Gini. I’ve watched this sort of thing happen with my parents over the years; knowing when to fight and when to walk away is always a tough call. I’ve had to do it as well (likely not on the scale you mention here) and it sucks. Plain and simple.

    Working in real estate development (both my parents’ business and mine when I first started), I’ve had lots of those kinds of ego-driven douche canoes that wanted the moon, wanted to pay only if they liked the results and were really just all around a-holes. I now know to stay away from them and like you’ve said, trust your gut. Unfortunately, the gut has a tendency to get over ruled in tough economic times. Ironically, that’s THE most important time to listen to it!

    I’m with @HowieSPM , call in the aliens!

    • ginidietrich

      @EricaAllison We’re also in a business of “what’s next?” I remember several years ago we got the front page of the WSJ (THE FRONT PAGE) and the client said, “When will we have the cover of the NY Times?” That was the beginning of the end. It also made me reevaluate the presence of media relations in what we offer clients. We rarely do it anymore.

  • ginidietrich

    @MattLaCasse I think we can stop censoring you now

    • MattLaCasse

      @ginidietrich Good call

  • ginidietrich

    @bdorman264 LOL! No!

  • When their unreasonable demands start interfering with your ability to serve other clients, then it’s time. You’d be surprised how a client might just shape up when you tell them that perhaps they should find another company to service their needs. Used to happen to us a lot when I worked as a sales manager for an upscale catering company in NYC.

    There’s more to a successful business than the $$$ of one client…

    I have spoken.

    • ginidietrich

      @danperezfilms Thank you for speaking.

  • CarmenKrushas

    Very sad. And I remember this company. Sometimes I like to think that are our worst customers are our best customers, but this clearly is not the case in this situation. This was a bully, who should not be in business. Im really sorry, Gini.

    • ginidietrich

      @CarmenKrushas Yes! You went through this with me so you very well know who it is. Terrible.

  • Sadly, we have had to fire more than one client. For similar reasons. We have learned over the years to spot them in the consult stages and avoid it altogether. But we did have a spell of about 1.5-2 years were I think we took 3 clients to small claims court and had our lawyer and/or collection agencies get on others. Let me tell you, the process is NO FUN, and EXPENSIVE! For us, it was a matter of Dave digging his heels in and being insistant to persue it! We always had our ducks in a row and won. However, our attorney warned us that he if you had proof, it might not go your way, so be warned.

    We have had clients drag their feet so that projects went far past our “projected date” (we never give a exact “D-day” incase of clients slowing us down) and the client then try to say, project was late we arent paying for it, but we will keep the code! UM NOT!

    The horror stories are endless, thats for sure! I remember the first time with had to fire a client, my 100% Irish Father-in-law freaked out…he couldnt understand quitting a job for another one, let alone fire a paying client no matter if they were late payers. But, he has since come to understand sometimes you have no choice. It sucks, that much is true!

    • ginidietrich

      @sydcon_mktg That’s so funny about your father-in-law! It’s definitely a different era, isn’t it? We’re accustomed to switching jobs. Our parents stayed in jobs for their entire working lives.

  • DoTime_WX

    @ginidietrich When it becomes a one way relationship Gini. re “… Fire a Client?”

  • For those of us who are entrepreneurs AND in the service industry, we are optimistic by nature. We want to do great work and ensure things work out! And we’re all for the old college try – in other words, we go out of our way to make something a success. I think the same is true when we hire someone for our team. I had a similar situation with an abusive client who cost me several good members of my team. You make a great point @ginidietrich about listening to your gut – early and not avoiding the warning signs. Swift action is often the best.

    • ginidietrich

      @martinwaxman If a client is making your team quit, the client HAS to go. You and I are a lot alike in this…we both want to please and be well-liked. But sometimes being well-liked means sacrificing the jerks.

      • @ginidietrich We are! It’s tough to please everyone. But if you understand your priorities, than it’s easier to make the difficult decisions.

  • ginidietrich

    @janetlyon ALWAYS appreciate the good ones!

  • ginidietrich

    @sydcon_mktg It’s not fun. Ever. 🙁

    • sydcon_mktg

      @ginidietrich You are right! It is never, ever fun! Can’t we all just play nice? Sorry you had to go thru it!

      • ginidietrich

        @sydcon_mktg Ah. It wasn’t the first…nor will it be the last.

        • sydcon_mktg

          @ginidietrich Thats the sad thing about it. The 1st experience is awful, but knowing, it will happen again. Its not for the squeamish!

  • ginidietrich

    @dannystarr That’s actually a really good rule of thumb

    • dannystarr

      @ginidietrich thanks.. it’s also what I felt you were saying between the lines

  • StarrMcCaffery

    Yikes. I really don’t like to work for friends…too muddy. Though this person sounds like a friend you needed to lose!

    • ginidietrich

      @StarrMcCaffery He wasn’t a close or good friend. He was really more an acquaintance. And clearly no longer!

  • NickKalm

    Great post, Gini. This guy sounds like a real piece of work! Sorry you had to deal with such a turkey and got left holding the financial bag. Now that we’re on the subject, though, being able to fire a client is one of the many, many things that’s great about owning a boutique firm. No “checking with New York” or other such nonsense. At my firm, we’ve done it twice — both times because the key client contact was abusive to my team (and was creating a retention issue for me).

    • ginidietrich

      @NickKalm Ha! We both come from big agencies where, if the client is making you crazy, you just have to deal. It is a bit liberating, isn’t it, to tell them where to stick it?

      • NickKalm

        @ginidietrich Absolutely! On the other hand, I also did this early in my career at Edelman (for a completely different reason). A client clearly wanted to do something I considered illegal to a group of employees at one of its plants who had the nerve to unionize. I promptly (and…gulp…without checking with anyone) resigned the account. I quickly got a call from Richard Edelman asking me what happened. When I explained (saying my personal reputation and presumably his were too important to work for a client that wanted us to be complicit in such work), to his significant credit, he was in full agreement. As a funny post-script, I can’t say who the client hired but let’s just say I’m sure you remember them, Gini.

        • ginidietrich

          @NickKalm Wow. It’s great that Richard stuck behind you. It’s a crazy business we’re in, isn’t it? Am I going to see you in New Orleans in May?

    • StarrMcCaffery


      Oh Nick I know we can name a few from our days together @ Edelman. Hope all is well with RP!

  • Back in the long ago when I started my first business, I had a similarly abusive client. But he did pay his bills. And (remember, this was long ago…I had a Mac II CX!) he ordered top of the line materials–embossing, multi color printing jobs, etc–so it was a lucrative account. My business banker asked me what it was like working with the client, who was notorious for being overbearing and difficult. I told him it was exhausting and demeaning. And that kind banker said, “Mimi, you have to know what your clients truly cost you. You have to know which ones to fire.” The idea had never occurred to me before. It taught me to value myself in a new way.

    Here’s a new rule to live by: no one, under any circumstances, gets to curse at you or threaten you. To them we say, Poof, be gone! (Insert Glenda wrist action.)

    I can’t wait to hear how the Great Thursday Experiment works out!

    • ginidietrich

      @MimiMeredith You are such a fountain of wisdom, my dear friend. It sounds like that banker was very kind…and right.

  • You know, as interesting as this post is.. I am really not in the position to fire people… no yayyy for me 🙁 But there are loads of people I would like to kick out… no yayy for me again.. 🙁

    When I was working as an intern psychologist; my supervisor got a call from her friend who wanted her to counsel her nephew who was suffering from severe depression. Now, as shrinks, our primarily rule remains that we will not take in patients we know; that sort of destroys the whole purpose of counseling and brings a lot of subjectivity into play. You know like if your friend is dating the wrong guy you will be bashing up the “wrong guy” ; but if a random stranger slits her wrists over the wrong guy, then you probably will use just words. After a lot of persuasion, my supervisor took over the case and after about 3 session, the kid decided to commit suicide; failed at the attempt but the “friend” threatened to sue the shrink because her “therapy” didn’t work.

    Well, after a lot of fighting and calling names, the matter ended and the kid was referred to someone else (something which was suggested earlier) and needless to say, no friendship anymore. And worse of all, that kid didn’t pay! Moral of the story : Friends are lovingly crazy, but if you are a shrink, then crazy is just plain dangerous.

    Though we can’t say you’re fired, we definitely know who not to take in as clients! 🙂 And that is a good thing sometimes!

    • ginidietrich

      @Hajra Wow. What a story. That is just awful…I can’t imagine being sued for someone attempting suicide. There definitely are worse things in life than a crappy client.

  • I have been down that road and was told by my attorney that I would win but that he guessed it would take two years to do so. I decided that I didn’t want to give them free rent in my head so I didn’t pursue that option.

    However that particular client lost a lot of their sales that year to a rival company which proved to me that sometimes karma works.

    • ginidietrich

      @TheJackB Karma totally works. This particular company still hasn’t launched. We take great pride in that fact. And you know what? I like what you say about giving them free rent in your head. That’s so true. It’s not worth it.

    • belllindsay

      @TheJackB@ginidietrich Saw this one the other day – loved it – “Karma’s only a bitch if *you* are!” 😉

  • MikeSchaffer

    Sounds like you made the right call, @ginidietrich .

    Several years ago, I had been leading PR and marketing with a non-profit account for three years. I knew times had been tough, but I was assured they were doing right by their 501(c)3.

    The night before their biggest annual fundraiser, a top reporter from a newspaper that rhymes with Cushington Toast called me to tell me about the story she was running on the organization. You see, she had participated in many of their fundraisers as a celebrity over the years and was curious about how much money they had donated.

    As it turns out, $0.00 went to charity in the three years since they became a non-profit. Tax records don’t lie, but, apparently, this client did.

    After doing my best to minimize the damage in the story, I called the client and told him that after the wrap-up report for that event, I was terminating our contract. I decided that finishing out that event was 1) the most professional option and 2) allowed me to help gain exposure for the partner charity, even if they weren’t going to get a dime.

    I think that client still owes my former agency thousands upon thousands of dollars.

    • @MikeSchaffer@ginidietrich Jeepers. O_o.

    • ginidietrich

      @MikeSchaffer OMG. O. M.G. I don’t understand some people. WHY would you work this way? It’s complete dishonesty. Wow. Good for you for a) finishing the event and b) standing by your values.

    • belllindsay

      @MikeSchaffer@ginidietrich Oh dear.

  • TheRedDogInn

    @ginidietrich hear! Hear! We had to fire a few clients in my agency days — some expected us to be their personal genies.

    • ginidietrich

      @TheRedDogInn And personal assistants

      • TheRedDogInn

        @ginidietrich like getting called at 4 am to get a car for a client who didn’t make arrangements at the airport. Doh!!!

        • ginidietrich

          @TheRedDogInn OMG! Yeah. That’s definitely your problem

  • JodiEchakowitz

    I’ve had to deal with some “prize” clients since starting my business 10+ years ago but I’m extremely thankful that I’ve never had to go through what you went through. Your story is a great reminder that we should let our instincts guide us. And if we feel a knot in our stomach when it’s time to speak with or meet a client, warning bells should be going off, reminding us that it’s time to part ways. As always, thank you for being so open and honest in your blog posts. In sharing your thoughts so openly, you help all of us in more ways you can imagine.

    • ginidietrich

      @JodiEchakowitz Thanks Jodi! It’s funny – writing this still made me angry. So I guess I’m not really over it yet.

  • trisha7

    This is a great post and clearing of bad vibes for you I would imagine! I am in real estate and have fired people as my clients because of various rudeness and unethical behaviour on their part.

    People think they are just interviewing us a potential Realtor(R) / employee but, I interview my potential clients as well. If they don’t fit my ethics or in my gut seem as though they will be a constant pain in the ass I do not want to work with them.

    In business we must stand by our values and work in such a way that we can live with ourselves and the money will come for a job you enjoyed working on.

    • ginidietrich

      @trisha7 You’re so right…it’s all about our ethics and morals and values. And really, are you going to find the very best house for someone if you don’t like them?

      • trisha7

        @ginidietrich Good point ! No, how can we work in their best interests if they are not being honest with us?

  • felixvelarde

    @ginidietrich we’ve done it a couple of times. The morale boost in the team lasts months, and usually massively outweighs the revenue hit.

    • ginidietrich

      @felixvelarde Totally agree!

  • perricollins

    @ginidietrich OMG, I feel ya. Had my first experience firing a client last year and was not good either. 🙁

    • ginidietrich

      @perricollins It’s not fun. 🙁

  • anandp29

    @ginidietrich Yikes, sounds like a horrible experience

    • ginidietrich

      @anandp29 I thought I was over it. I’m not.

      • anandp29

        @ginidietrich Understandable. I guess life is always about learning lessons…

  • belllindsay

    Sounds like a horrible situation. It *never* ceases to amaze me how brutally ignorant people can be to other people. But your lawyer was right. The gut wins. Every. Single. Time. I had a similar’esque sitch myself, where I know I would have won. And oh. It pains me still that I had to walk away (I’m a “But it’s the principal of the thing!” kinda gal! LOL) yet taking the high road and walking away clean was was the right thing to do big-picture. Just like for you. Props for taking the high road. Amazing that this person was a friend also…!? Sheeeesh. I rest easy knowing that *I* can look myself in the mirror each morning. Cause I don’t treat people like garbage. And neither do you.

    • ginidietrich

      @belllindsay Well, I do if they don’t friend me on Facebook. But that’s another story.

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich HAHAHAHAHA!!! Ok. STOP it!! I’m afraid the next Facebook Question of The Week is going to be “Is Lindsay Bell a Good FB Friend…?” 😀 *kisses*

        • ginidietrich

          @belllindsay THAT is a great idea!!

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich “The Politics Of Facebook Friending” – LMAO!!!

  • _SKG

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about this debacle. The good news is you will recover the lost business, and emerge brighter, informed, and more resilient than ever before. Keep up the great job Arment Dietrich!

    • ginidietrich

      @_SKG Thanks! While it was more than a year ago, it’s still pretty raw and painful.

  • Jensenborger6

    @ginidietrich Holy cow, this makes the hard cases I’ve worked with look like saints.

    • ginidietrich

      @Jensenborger6 Ha! It was pretty bad. I still get riled up about it.

  • CreativeCopyKC

    @ginidietrich Great post on firing a client. Thanks for sharing your hard-learned experience.

    • ginidietrich

      @CreativeCopyKC Thanks!

  • I think a lot of people don’t realize the sacrifices and challenges business owners face. You address several of them here, it’s like reading some of my own history. Really enjoyed reading this, we’ll have to trade stories more in the future!

    • ginidietrich

      @hackmanj I was thinking about it after our conversation yesterday afternoon. We need to trade stories more often!

  • Gotta love the Type A wannabes. Leadership through fear isn’t leadership at all.

    • ginidietrich

      @fitzternet No. That isn’t leadership at all.

      • @ginidietrich More like Type A-hole. Amirite?

        Sorry. I’m 12 years old.

        • @fitzternet@ginidietrich OMG! You should have seen the way he treated HIS team. In front of US! I was appalled.

        • ginidietrich

          @Lisa Gerber@fitzternet It WAS really bad. And, because the relationship was only a couple of weeks old, we could really commiserate together.

  • SFMichele57

    Wow! Brings back (not happy) memories: I experienced a similar, “highly motivational” welcome from a new employer on my first day during the “here’s the file cabinet, this is the front door key” orientation. And, as this was during our still-ongoing Great Recession and I was so glad to have a job, I optimistically forged onward. Never again. When they come right out at the outset and definitely tell you — as they did in your case and in mine — in a few words or with a speech that they don’t *really* want to work **with** you, you must believe it, get up, leave the office, and not look back.

    • ginidietrich

      @SFMichele57 Was it our client?? LOL! Man! Doesn’t it make you angry that you didn’t pack up and leave? I guess we think, “Ah surely that was a joke. I mean, it’s my first day.” I’m really sorry that happened to you. Some people really suck.

  • wagnerwrites

    I was also reminded of the fact that sooner or later in the PR business, the contacts you depend on in the media and elsewhere will come to know that you are working with a complete A-hole. That hurts the brand. Thanks for the very timely moral lesson!

    • belllindsay

      @wagnerwrites Great point.

    • ginidietrich

      @wagnerwrites You know what? That is a GREAT point!

    • @wagnerwrites I like that viewpoint. Sometimes, no matter what business we are in, we get so focused on the narrow picture that we forget to see how our choices will impact the bigger picture…how others will see us based on our choices and how that does, indeed, affect the perception of the brand as a whole. Excellent to remember for all of us!! @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber @belllindsay

  • ensino

    @ginidietrich great, yet sad story. I have always followed my gut = success.

    • ginidietrich

      @ensino I wish I could say the same

  • This post reminds me of kind hearted client I’m currently working with now, but I have to say your client sounds a bit more friendlier then mine. People like this deserve success in seeing their energy magnified and returned to their own business.Consider your time spent an investment, you’ll never hear from him again. That’s probably worth a lot more then what he owes you.

    • ginidietrich

      @Karl Sly Aren’t these kind-hearted clients awesome?!?

    • belllindsay

      @Karl Sly And every client is now saying to themselves “Er…..?” – LOL 🙂

  • I remember the elevator ride down after that first meeting. We both looked at each other: “Don’t screw this up!”

    Oh, OK. Because we were totally going to, so thanks for being clear.

    That was the moment right there – and we’ve used that as a lesson more than once; to follow instinct. You finally blogged about it. 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @Lisa Gerber I loved how you kept saying, “Man! I wish I’d said, ‘Yeah. Because that’s how we start client relationships…by screwing up!'” HAHAHAHA!

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich@Lisa Gerber Had I been there (with my big, inappropriate mouth) I probably *would* have! LMAO!

        • ginidietrich

          @belllindsay@Lisa Gerber Now THAT I’m pretty sure we both would have paid to see!

        • @ginidietrich@belllindsay@Lisa Gerber Oh my! This alert came through on my phone and I thought you said “PEED to see!”!!! 🙂

        • belllindsay

          @DannyBrown@ginidietrich@Lisa Gerber That too! LOL

  • Boy, can I relate to your story. My gut told me something was wrong when a client balked at signing a contract. They then insisted on including a quote from a well known rock star in a news release, even though we didn’t have his permission–talk about unethical! It got worse when they wouldn’t pay their bills and then threatened to counter sue ME if I pursued any legal action. Fortunately I was able to take them to small claims court (not very expensive) and get at least part of the money they owed me. In hindsight I should have insisted on all my money upfront. I know it’s childish, but half-way through my engagement with them I added their phone number to my directory so it displayed “F**k Wits” whenever they called me.

    • ginidietrich

      @Shelley Pringle LMAO!!! That is hilarious!!

  • TomMartin


    Great reminder — every time I’ve ignored that little voice I’ve regretted it in some way. Funny how out Spidey Sense is so well trained eh?


    • ginidietrich

      @TomMartin It is funny, isn’t it? I had a business advisor who used to say, “Don’t just trust your gut, obey it.”

  • KyEkinci

    @ginidietrich knows, I’ve done that twice this year.

  • Firing Clients is necessary sometimes – especially when you value your time and are in high demand. Not everyone is in the position to be picky, but it’s certainly ideal when you can choose who you work with. Very good topic and story – I’m sure you won’t hesitate to Trump the next jackass that raises your flags!

    • ginidietrich

      @SociallyGenius We’ll see if I learned my lesson or not. I hope so!

  • I had one of those “should have listened to my gut” moments during my first internship at a PR agency, and I will NEVER not pay attention to red flags again. It was a horrible and demoralizing experience, and I’m kind of surprised I pursued a PR career after the hell the agency owner put me and the other interns through. But, I learned a lot of lessons from it and am now a better/stronger person. But yes…never ignore the red flags.

    Thanks for sharing this story. Hopefully it pops into someone’s head the next time they’re in a red flag situation.

    • ginidietrich

      @Nikki_Little Wow. It wasn’t a client…it was the boss?

      • @ginidietrich Yup, it was the boss. I haven’t had any atrocious client experiences (yet).

  • Woaw… some friend…!!

    How is this mate’s company doing now??? The laws of Karma dictate that they were bought out by a larger/more honorable company than them (Enron?) before being stitched up on the sale price (“Dollars?? No we said – 1 million Lira”). Cue expensive legal battle resulting in loss of personal wealth and a life scouring the multitude of Chicago Discount offers for a cut price lawyer…

    • ginidietrich

      @Nic_Cartwright I’d be lying if I said we don’t look to see if they’re doing business yet (they’re not). Karma, as they say, comes around.

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  • KDillabough

    @SocialMediaDDS @ginidietrich :))))))

  • Wow what a powerful lesson. Thanks for sharing and being so candid. We all make mistakes but as long as you learn from it it’s ok. Listening to my gut instinct has been something my Mom has ingrained in me since I was a child…I remember you giving me the same advice as well. It’s always nice to be reminded!

    Um and I hope you’re not still friends with this d-bag..

    • ginidietrich

      @rachaelseda Uh no. I’m pretty sure, after the blowout, he has zero desire to be friends with me, either.

  • dariasteigman

    Hi Gini,

    Thanks for sharing this story. I think too often people are afraid to say no to business (it’s not always fun, especially in lean times)–but I’ve found I’m always better off long term trusting my instincts. When I don’t, I need up pretty miserable. And these are always clients that no one (at least me) can make happy.

    Love the charitable use of the word “friend” in describing the start of dealing #2 (or #3?) with this client.

    • ginidietrich

      @dariasteigman You’re so right. The money might be good at the start, but it ends up costing you a lot more in the long run.

  • rdopping

    Wow! That’s a terrible situation. I suppose the friend is not a friend anymore. It’s so, so hard for me to say no to a friend. I can’t do it easily but I never really had a situation quite as bad as yours. I got caught in a friend/work relationship a few years ago and even though I got paid it cost me 3 times in time than what the job was worth. I had to finish it, didn’t I? Yuk. Suffice it to say I have a hard time continuing to call someone a friend if they do that to you.

    Good lesson learned for me. I won’t take work from “friends” anymore instead recommend another designer to work with them. When a client becomes a friend (as they so often do) there is usually still a buffer of the original professional relationship there that you can always fall back on if it starts to go south. Too bad if it does but hey, we are all “big boys”, so to speak.

    Thanks for sharing (and reminding me of my story).

    • ginidietrich

      @rdopping Yes, I too have the working with friends policy now.

  • Carmen_Benitez_

    @paulepetersen @ginidietrich rocks. Love her to bits. Glad to see you following her. A very smart lady w/stellar team.

    • humansCher

      @Carmen_Benitez_ No one can watch it for more than 10 seconds —->

    • ginidietrich

      @Carmen_Benitez_ xoxo

  • JessicaNorthey

    @RedheadWriting @ginidietrich hey hey! two of my favorite CyberCheekas in one tweet 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @EnMastBusiness Some people suck, huh?

    • EnMastBusiness

      @ginidietrich Better to just let those people go than to even worry about how much they suck.

      • ginidietrich

        @EnMastBusiness Very true

  • Just wanted to say thanks for linking to the blog timing post over here 🙂

    – Janet from Shareaholic

    • ginidietrich

      @JanetAronica You bet, Janet! We’re testing the theory about Thursdays. I’ll have some results to share in a month.

  • prosperitygal

    @lizstrauss oh god yes, firing client is angst driving cc@ginidietrich

  • ginidietrich

    @lizstrauss No. Not fun at all.

  • bryanwillmert

    Boy oh boy does that ring very familiar for me right now. Thanks for sharing that Gini!! The pain of that sucks but i am sure the pain of going further would have been much worse! I appreciate your candid conversation!

    • ginidietrich

      @bryanwillmert I thought you’d like this one.

  • one of the most diffucult-est part in business is to fire a client! have had bad experiences as well.

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