How Do You Fire a Client Without Burning a Bridge?
By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD
There are times when you need to consider firing a client. It’s always a delicate and stressful situation that requires a lot of tact.
Before you decide to fire the client, evaluate the benefits and risks of doing so.
- How will this affect your reputation and resources?
- Are there unresolved conflicts that could be resolved?
- Is the client too demanding, expects impossible deadlines and wants more than they’re paying for? (Sound familiar?)
I’ve had to fire clients in the past because of the way they treated my team. If you don’t let your employees know that you will stand up for them, how can you inspire loyalty?
Parting on Good Terms
If you decide to move forward, it helps to do some planning. When you talk to your client, you should have an honest message that explains why you’re dissolving the partnership, what you appreciated about the relationship and how you will handle the transition. (Having an exit strategy will help avoid misunderstandings, disputes, and legal issues.)
The way you talk to your client about your exit can make a big difference. Don’t blame or criticize them. Don’t accuse them of any wrongdoing even if there are good reasons to do so. Of course, if they did something illegal, that is fair game. Focus on the positive parts of your relationship and acknowledge their contributions.
We can’t forget that even though this is a business relationship, people’s feelings are involved. Most importantly, Kansas City is a VERY small town, so be respectful.
You should also consider maintaining the relationship with your former client if possible. They can still be a valuable source of referrals and insights. You never know when you might cross paths in the future.
After the transition is complete, reflect on the experience and learn from it.
- What worked and what didn’t?
- Was there something you did in the beginning that led to parting ways?
- What lessons did you learn that will help you make sure the next partnership works well?
Some people are going to be angry. Some people will understand. All you can control is making the right decisions for your team and your company. And if that means parting ways with a client, even one that’s important to your business financially, trust your instincts and act. There’s a reason your gut is telling you it’s time to make a change.
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