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Thread: Firing clients

  1. #1
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    Firing clients

    We're no big business. We treat every client/customer as king regardless of size - it's our chosen approach - and we do business with end users, micro's, smb's, public enterprises etc as our clients. We need every cent! BUT .... we've fired clients - not many, but we have. And I'm not referring to the bad debtors types.
    Have you done it? I need to know if it's as liberating for you as it is for me?
    I'm in the "performance management" stage with one at the moment - they're the kind that approach you for a solution suggestion + you ask all the right questions + make the best matched recommendations (with notes) and they take your quote and go to a "all I do is beat the price" *edited for censorship purposes* company.
    Can't wait for the disciplinary hearing!

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    I have and yes, it is very liberating. The first one ignored my terms & conditions and behaved as if they must be my sole income for years. Every order we sent them had items missing and we never have this problem with anyone else. When I wanted to get at the bottom of it they were not interested and said the problem must be on our side. I have taken so much from them by then that I informed them we will not be able to supply them any longer. Best.decision.ever. and I haven't regretted it once.

    The only other one I fired was one of our smallest clients and gave us the most hassle. Not meeting minimum orders, long delays in payment etc. Like you I look well after my customers but at the same time there comes a time where one has to assess whether the hassle is worth the business.

    I read somewhere that either you as the supplier or your customer will be in charge and that you must make sure it is not the customer.
    Sometimes the only transport available is a leap of faith

  3. #3
    Platinum Member Neville Bailey's Avatar
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    Oh yes, I've had my fair share of firing clients! One of the benefits of running your own business (you can't exactly fire your boss, or one of your managers).

    Three cases come to mind:
    • Client A is a family-run business. Adrian is the MD and his mother, Katherine, was in charge of the accounts department.

      Katherine was one of the most negative people I have ever had to deal with, whereas Adrian was reasonable, although quite fussy about what he wanted (no problem).

      Every time I was called out to assist them with an issue, I dreaded going there, as I had to face a glowering Katherine who pulled to pieces everything I did or said. Nothing I did was good enough for her. After all, she had worked in "accounts" longer than I have been alive, in spite of my financial management experience for over 25 years.

      It all came to a head when I sent out a routine email to all my clients, asking them to confirm that I was their "linked" Pastel consultant, something that Pastel needed in order to update their system. I received a snotty and sarcastic response from dear Katherine, asking what exactly have I ever done for them? I decided then and there to fire them and I sent her an email, stating that I was no longer prepared to be their consultant in the circumstances, and that they should look for someone else. I received no response from her.

      A few weeks later I get an email from Adrian, asking if I could help him with some-or-other issue, as though nothing had happened! I asked him if he was aware of my email to his mother, and he said no. He was shocked and said he would have a chat to his mother. He assured me that, from his point of view, he was 100% happy with the service that I giving them. I said that I was still not prepared to see them again, as long as his mother was working there.

      A few months later I get another call from Adrian (they used another consultant in the meantime), asking me to please be their consultant again as the replacement consultant was a disaster, and his mother has since retired! So I've re-hired the client, in much happier circumstances!
    • Client B is a wine farm near Stellenbosch. They had been using a Cape Town consultant, who they said was not up to scratch, so they approached me as they had seen my posts on another (now defunct) business forum.

      They wanted to set up a point-of-sale in their wine tasting room. They flew me down for 3 days. When I got there, I discovered that their system was a total mess, partly because of the way it had been set up by the previous consultant, and partly because of the un-systematic way in which the manager, Sue, was maintaining the system.

      Sue mentioned that, apart from setting up the point-of-sale system, she wanted me to also look at a few other unrelated issues. I said I would, but that my priority was the point-of-sale system and that, if there was time left over, I would attend to the other issues. Otherwise, those issues could be sorted out remotely.

      I spent a large portion of my 3 days unravelling and fixing the mess before I could get to setting up the point-of-sale system itself. By the end of the 3 days, after working flat-out, I got them up and running before catching my flight home. In the process, I pointed out to Sue that I had picked a lot of other issues that needed to be looked at and that needed to be tidied up at some stage, but that their point-of-sale system was good to go.

      When I got home, I sent them my account for my time (I charge per hour), after passing an ex gratia discount for part of my time whilst troubleshooting a setup problem that involved sitting on the phone to an associate of mine. Sue responded that she was not prepared to pay me, as I "had not completed all the other issues that she had mentioned". I responded that I will happily deal with the other issues remotely, but that there would be further charges for them.

      Sue was adamant that she would only pay the amount on the invoice that I had sent her, and no more, and only after I had dealt with the other issues as well. I tried explaining why I could not accept this and that she was being unreasonable, but she was not prepared to hear me. Eventually I stuck my neck out and told her that, rather than backing down to her demands, I would rather walk away at the risk of losing the money that she owed me, but that I would name-and-shame to all the other Pastel consultants in the country!

      Needless to say, the full amount of my invoice was paid into my account the next day, and I have not heard from her again!
    • Client 3 is a NGO. They are actually a "still-born" client, the reason will become clear later...

      Jane has been running their accounts on Excel for as long as they have existed, but their auditors have been pressurising them to go onto Pastel for some time, as it was a nightmare to audit their accounts and to prepare annual financial statements.

      My initial meeting with Jane was mainly to get an understanding of how her Excel model worked (always difficult to understand someone else's Excel structure), and to assess their reporting requirements, which are usually quite unique for NGO's. I then prepared a quote for the software, which included Pastel Business Intelligence Centre (BIC) module, to cater for their specific reporting needs, as well as my time to implement the system.

      Even though I had assured her that the system could meet their requirements, Jane wanted me to demonstrate how it would do so, before purchasing the software. She was not happy with my assurances that it would be fine - she wanted to see their data working in Pastel before committing! Much against my better judgement, I took copies of her Excel files and set up the Pastel database and BIC reports on my system, which took much of my time, the idea being that Jane would be suitably impressed and order the software and that my time spent thus far would be recouped from the quote that I had prepared for her.

      When I demonstrated what I had done, she asked if I could make "this and that adjustment" to the reports and that she would then go ahead with the order. Like a twit, I tweaked the reports as she requested, but she wanted further changes made!

      I have since advised Jane that I will not be putting any more of my time into the job, until I get some commitment from her by way of an order. I have not heard from her since...
    Neville Bailey - Pastel Accounting Consultant and Photographer
    neville@accountingsoftwaresupport.co.za
    www.accountingsoftwaresupport.co.za
    View Neville Bailey Photography

    *** 20% DISCOUNT ON PASTEL XPRESS / PARTNER SOFTWARE UNTIL 15 DECEMBER 2017 ***

    "Give every person more in use value than you take from them in cash value."
    WALLACE WATTLES (1860-1911)

  4. #4
    Email problem KimH's Avatar
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    Neville reading your post above definitely struck a chord with me, as most of you know I only started my business in mid May this year and the business is still very much in it's infancy stage - as such I find myself being far too generous at times and mostly to my detriment. As my stock in trade is time and not products I tend to put far more effort in than what I generally charge for, and oddly enough the first client I fired was a wine farm in Paarl. Regular phone calls at 6:30am every other day and the expectation to train a staff member that had been promoted from doing deliveries to managing intricate monthly stock takes using excel and Pastel to be fully competent within 3 weeks AND then told that I would be personally held responsible if she could not perform to his expectations within this time frame made me take the decision to fire this client. Best darn decision I ever made. I now get to work in peace until 8am before the first phone calls come in from clients
    "If at first you don't succeed, do it like your mother told you."

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    Diamond Member Blurock's Avatar
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    Kim, have you now inherited the wine farm that Neville has fired?
    Excellence is not a skill; its an attitude...

  6. #6
    Email problem KimH's Avatar
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    LOL! No thank goodness Stellenbosch and Paarl and a fair ways apart.
    "If at first you don't succeed, do it like your mother told you."

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Sounds like wine and whine are not that far apart, though.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  8. #8
    Diamond Member Blurock's Avatar
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    Maybe we should stay away from the wine...
    Excellence is not a skill; its an attitude...

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    Oh yes definately - and I have got a very good memory - the other day I got a phone call from a guy who desperately needed my help to repair his fence because a truck had driven thro the wall and he was going away and blah blah blah . Somehow I remembered his voice, arrogant, know it all kinda guy - I asked him if he lived in a pinkish house on a corner just to check if it was the same guy that had taken ages to pay me about 4 years ago, had all the excuses under the sun etc etc ....... you've heard them all ........... Bingo ... same guy - I said to him that yes with pleasure I would help him - I said I would go around there immediately with a team and sort his problem out, but when I get there I will give him a price and I require payment up front for the job !!! ............. Well needless to say due to the kind of person he is we agreed not to do any more business. I do not need customers like this !

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    Silver Member Petrichor's Avatar
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    I have been fotunate to only been forced to do this once. Had a client that rented a trailer from me, and returned it in a state which was beyond belief. Apparently he transported dead animals on 1000km gravel road. He managed to loose the spare wheel, break some of the railings and he did not even bother washing it, so the stench was so bad, you could not get within meters of it. The blood literally eroded the paint off the flooring.

    Lucky for me I had also owed him money for work he did for me, so I had it washed, repaired and deducted the cost, and only paid over the balance I owed him. We agreed not to do any future business.

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