This is a true story. I got fired by a client yesterday. I don’t get fired by clients often. In fact, I can only remember a handful of times, when I have been fired as a lawyer over the past 18 years of my law career.
Getting fired yesterday was a blessing.
Here is why. In a nutshell, I was never going to please this client. He wanted me to tell him that the law is something different than what it actually is.
I don’t tell my clients what they WANT to hear. I tell them what they NEED to hear.
Lesson #1- You are not going to please every client or customer. So, don’t try.
Long story short, my client did not like the bad news that I delivered. This client came to me for legal documents to complete transactions that are generally prohibited by Indiana law. When I explained to him that he could not do what he wanted to do, he became very frustrated. He was disappointed that his lawyer, which was me until yesterday, would not sanction and approve his business model. He never expected that his lawyer would discourage him from a business model that he had already spent thousands and thousands of dollars creating. In fact, after I first met him and delivered the bad news a few months ago, he spent hours and hours on the Internet trying to prove me wrong. He found several websites of other companies offering to do the same unlawful business that he wants to do. So, he found it very hard to accept my advice. Even after I printed and gave him sections of the Indiana Code that clearly prohibit his business model, he remained in disbelief.
If you are a professional services provider, your clients must have faith in you. If they do not trust or have faith in you, they will ignore your advice or not follow it religiously. If they do not follow your advice, they are, in essence, paying you for the privilege of ignoring your advice. They can ignore your advice, all on their own. If they are not accepting your advice and counsel, they are paying you for nothing. There is no good reason for them to pay you for nothing. That is simply a waste of their money. So, you either need to establish a higher level of trust or terminate the relationship.
Lesson#2- If you can’t please a client or customer, end the relationship on good terms- early.
If you do have a client or customer whom you cannot please, end the relationship on good terms now. Don’t struggle to try to fix a broken business relationship. There are plenty of customers and clients who need good advice, other services and products. This is a variation of the old 80-20 rule. 80% of your problems come from 20% of your “bottom” customers. While 80% of your profits come from 20% of your “top” customers. Spend your time and energy on the top 20% of your customer-base. If you spend your time and energy on the customers whom you will never please, you are doing a disservice to your best customers, that difficult customer, your employees, your business partners, and yourself. Let the bad customers go, and add to the number and quality of your top 20% customers.
Let that difficult customer go to your competition. You will be happier and more profitable, and your customers will be happier.
To finish my story about getting fired, I met with the client and ended the relationship on good terms. I got paid in full for my time, and returned my client’s file to him. I wished him the best of luck and encouraged him to reevaluate his position. Had he asked, I would’ve helped him find another lawyer. In fact, I spent 15 – 20 minutes with him, explaining once again that the law does not support his position. I gave him specific examples of other cases for other clients, and even suggested that he go talk to some other lawyer-experts in this field. I even offered to arrange a phone call with local experts, who were the chief governmental officers in charge of this area of the law. They happen to be personal friends of mine, and I was willing to arrange private meetings with these lawyer-experts to help the client. All to no avail, because the client is 100% committed to pursuing a plan and business model that poses significant risks to him and his business. He is a client who cannot be pleased, and he would not remember all the efforts I made to keep him out of trouble. The minute he gets in legal trouble, he will develop selective memory, and blame me for his refusal to follow my good legal advise. Who needs that?
It was a blessing to be fired by that client yesterday. I feel bad that the client is making a bad decision, but I did the right thing. The client should have more, not less, confidence in me, but he doesn’t care about that. He is not searching for good advice or a trustworthy advisor. He is searching for legal confirmation that he can do whatever he wants to do. That’s not the type of client I want to serve. So, it is best that the relationship ended.
Can you apply these lessons to your business? Do any of you have customers or clients whom you need to fire? Let me hear about it. Add a comment to this post and tell us your story.