It’s not me…

Guest blogger Steve Price, of Plan B Studio, reflects on making the difficult decision to sack a client.

You’ve probably at some point been on the receiving end of  a speech that ends with something like ’It’s not you… It’s me’, or ‘We’ve just drifted apart’.

In most relationships there is a dominant and a passive, sometimes submissive. I’m not just talking about personal relationships. This takes place in business as well. Most people have at least one, if not several clients with whom the relationships are constantly tested to breaking point.

Often you’ll hear about agencies loosing clients, and this is often because the client has the power and can feel much more confident about sacking their current agency. After all, there are plenty more fish in the sea, right? Right. Lots.

It is not often you hear about this working the other way around; agencies sacking clients. It does happen but it doesn’t happen often enough. People are naturally cautious and afraid of how they will fill the hole left. But then again, in a relationship you shouldn’t stay with someone who spoke to you badly? Bullied you? Made you do things you didn’t like doing?

Steve Price
Steve Price

There are some tough questions that you can ask yourself to ascertain whether or not you should consider sacking your client, and apply honest, cautionary answers. Are they profitable for you? Is the client in question costing you more man power than they’re paying for? Is the team working with the client happy? Are the on-going concerns ones that can be fixed? Would you and your team be more productive working on something else?

This all sounds like I’m suggesting the problem is always with the client. On many occasions the problem is both of us, or indeed just us, but we choose to blame the client. We say, ’They’re not listening to us’, maybe we’re not telling the right story in the right way. ’They’re not buying in to the ideas,’ because we’re not selling them right. ’They’re a pain in the ass,’ maybe we are.

Ask most people what their definition of a good relationship is and you’ll more than likely get words like honesty, trust, compassionate, loving, kind, warm, gentle and so on. It’s the same with a design-client relationship. If you don’t call a client every now and then to see how they are, ask after their kids, their family, their holiday then it’s as likely they won’t call you.

Sure, sometimes stress gets the better of us, but for the rest of the time it’s about providing honest, open and clear communication. Based on honesty, trust, and above all else respect. Sounds simple and obvious but it’s amazing how many times we get it wrong, right?

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  • George Foster November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It’s a tough decision indeed. But on the odd (very odd as in feeling!) occasions I have done it, I have never regretted it. Because it has probably, by that time, got to the point where it was just too painful to carry on pretending that this was just the ‘way it is’ with some clients.

    The saving grace? You take a look at the clients that you DO like, that you have the rapport with, and the ones that seem to genuinely like working with you (and respect your judgement). Then it’s not so bad is it?

    You often find as well that these are the ones that have been with you the longest and are the ones that you sometimes ring just for a chat rather than to get work out of.

    It’s not always like that of course and as in any relationship, they sometimes drive you nuts with their demanding ways and incessant demands. But if you can genuinely say that you pretty much like all the people you work with then you ain’t doing bad!

    That’s why we work in a service industry after all…

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