When to Fire a Client Before They Damage Your Business

Business owners spend so much time wooing clients that it may seem unthinkable to fire one. However, the reality is that not every client is going to be the right fit and when you have one of those, it’s better to end the relationship before any irreparable damage is done to your brand or business. 

As new business owners, it can be hard to think of a scenario where you might have to fire a client. Seasoned business owners will tell you that it happens! Often business owners will hold onto a client for way longer than they should. Knowing when to let go of a client relationship will help keep your business healthy and thriving. 

They don’t respect boundaries 

As a business owner, it’s your job to set boundaries for what’s acceptable to your clients and communicate them clearly at the beginning of your relationship. An example of boundaries might be working hours. For example, do you want your clients calling you any time day or night, or are there specific hours you would like them to adhere to? If the client changes the brief last minute but still wants the work turned around at the same time, would you be okay with that? Setting and communicating boundaries is an important part of a successful business. When clients don’t respect the boundaries you’ve set, it may be time to let them go. 

You’re not on the same page about the work

Your client likely came to you because you’re the subject matter expert. While they approached you for your expertise, they still get the final say. If you and your client can’t come to an understanding of what the deliverables are or agree on a direction, then it may be time to let that client go.

As the old adage goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force him to drink. If you’re advising your clients on what’s best, but are consistently being met with friction, it might be better to let them find someone more aligned with their thinking. If your client doesn’t trust you as the subject matter expert, you won’t be able to help them succeed—and the success of the client is the whole point of the relationship. 

Your values are not aligned 

If a client doesn’t share your values, you will have trouble developing a successful client relationship. Seeing eye to eye about the work and how to complete that work is a crucial part of a successful client relationship. If a client wants easy wins or to cross over the line of what’s ethical, then it might be time to stop working with that client. The potential damage to your brand by working with a client whose values aren’t aligned with yours can be tremendous and outweigh any potential benefit from the relationship. 

Firing a client can seem counterintuitive to building a successful company. However, finding and working with your ideal client– not just any client– is the way to build a business that will thrive. If you’re constantly shaping your business to fit every potential client, after a while you won’t recognize it. Deciding your brand values, priorities, and operating standards and moving toward relationships that strengthen it rather than undermine it will lead you to success.

For more leadership advice, join one of IAW’s upcoming Herizon or Brightalk events or read more on our blog!

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