There are clients you love, clients you hate, clients you wish you had, and clients you wish you’d lose.
But are there clients you should fire?
While yoga teacher Alice Van Ness didn’t have the foresight to drop Facebook as a client before she got whacked for not permitting folks to disrupt a yoga class with cell phone usage, perhaps she should have.
All of you (me too) who get paid to do something get paid to do a job. Teach school? Educate kids. Drive a bus? Facilitate transportation. Analyze stocks? Pick winners, avoid losers; make the best investment decisions you can for your clients.
And if your client doesn’t want you to do that job, you get a quandary. Do another job (cell phone yoga?) and get paid, or apply reasonable standards and suggest that the client should find someone else.
Sometimes, though you can see it coming and you “help” the client take a pass on you before you end up in paid hell.
Last week a prospective exec coaching client called to talk working with them. The issue? Their CEO said the would-be-client’s communication skills were not too hot, and it was an issue with not only the CEO, but the board as well.
The would-be client’s take? The CEO was a nice person but a lousy CEO; the board – some people who I know of professionally – was made up of a bunch of people who just wanted to hear what they wanted to hear and nothing else.
The would-be client shared a letter from the CEO that frankly was well written, and pretty specific about what needed to be fixed. The response to the CEO which he also shared? Choppy, disjointed, and kind of a jumbled mess.
All smooth sailing in terms of working together until I suggested that I sit down with him, and also sit down with the CEO separately before I took on the assignment to determine if I could be of help.
The thank-you-no-thank you email from the would-be client that I received next was not a surprise. Pricing and method, they said, had became an issue. My hunch? The potential client was looking for a coaching ally and someone who would support their point of view, not someone who might help them with a dose of reality and push for upskilling and behavioral change.
So while I got likely missed a paying client I couldn’t help, in the case of the Facebook yoga teacher it’s sometimes a case of breaking with a client whose expectations you can’t meet.
And while we all (or at least most of us) work to earn a living, sometimes living well is ducking – or firing – those clients who seek what you can’t provide.
Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.