Software

Should this IT consultant fire his client?

After doing a little snooping onsite, an IT consultant needs help deciding whether to fire his client. Read about his sticky situation, and then offer your advice.

 

I received the following email from a TechRepublic member:

I am interested to find out what other consultants would do in this circumstance:

I currently have a number of small client sites that I support in a metropolitan area. I recently ran into an issue with one of these clients not paying on time (hardly the first time I've seen this). After my second letter regarding the late payment, I received a check that was "accidentally" unsigned. On my third letter, I assessed my standard 10% fee, plus a charge of $35 for the reversed check (I didn't notice until after deposit).

Following is the response from the accountant:

"Dear Frustrated,

It is our company's policy not to pay late fees or service charges. I looked at our history of payment, and normally we have paid your company within 30-60 days. I admit this payment went a bit beyond that, but I assure you it won't happen again. If this continues to be an issue, let me know and we can sit down with the Office Manager next time you're in the office."

While less than thrilled, this letter did accompany a check for the original amount, which I deposited. It had been my intention to chalk this up as a one-time issue unless it happened again. HERE is where my question comes in...

Today I received a frantic call from this client and headed into their office (they let their server's HDD space get down to 220MB). As I was working at, ironically, this accountant's PC, I noticed her email client was open. Now, admittedly, I should've ignored it, but I "perused" a bit, and found an email she had sent to the Office Manager, basically detailing my request for the late fee, and how I wasn't getting <expletive deleted>. The Office Manager congratulated the accountant on her response to me.

My question is:

Should I drop this client if I am going to be treated like this, or is it my own fault for being nosey? Is it better to bail now (potentially putting me in a position to have to explain myself) or wait for it to happen again so I have a valid reason?

It sounds like the company is either having financial difficulties or has a bean counter in command who likes to string out payables as long as possible. That's a situation in itself that needs to be dealt with swiftly.

If a client won't be up-front with me, it's a good reason for me to fire them. But is that really the case here? The accountant told him that they weren't willing to pay the late fee. In the message to her boss, she said basically the same thing, though not as politely. She didn't exactly lie to the consultant, but her tone portrayed a willingness to be helpful that differed decidedly from how she presented it to her boss.

Your options might be restricted by your contract. Hopefully, you haven't tied yourself into a certain number of hours or a certain level of availability for a long period. If you have, you might have to wait for the current contract to expire before you can institute any new terms, including none at all.

What are your thoughts about the situation?

What do you think about how our hero read the client's email? I believe that could be construed as illegal eavesdropping (though I'm no lawyer). On the other hand, the client's accountant left her email available on the same desktop on which they asked the consultant to work. Does that absolve him of liability? Did they intend for him to see it? Are they subtly trying to get rid of him?

Get weekly consulting tips in your inbox TechRepublic's IT Consultant newsletter, delivered each Monday, offers tips on how to attract customers, build your business, and increase your technical skills in order to get the job done. Automatically sign up today!

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

183 comments
EricTam
EricTam

Revised the T&C and any bank fee caused by the customer is payable by the customer.

wgd
wgd

FWIW, the accountant's attitude has nothing to do with it. So she's either a female canine or she's "multifacted" [e.g. two-faced -- at least!] or both. As if that's new in the world. The facts are that the consultant acknowledged receipt and *acceptance* of payment twice -- once with the unsigned cheque which was returned (which, sorry, it was his fault for depositing) and again when he deposited the cheque that made for less than the revised full amount. Whether or not the "extra charges" were fair is somewhat up to the terms of the contract. Hopefully, he, at least, was acting in accordance with the terms of the contract this whole time! However, he is still obviously getting jerked around by the company and the motivations of the company's representatives (whether cruelty or incompetence) is fairly inconsequential. Has this been a good client in the past? Have there been some changes in the company that may make the situation unworkable in the future? What kinds of contractual obligations are there and is there anything that can be exercised? For example, stating that it's "against company policy" to pay excise fees doesn't matter a whit if they are contractually obligated to do so. However, once our hero accepted payment *the second time* -- for the same amount [sans fee] -- he *also* threw any other contractual obligations out the window. We need to be careful about this stuff, folks!

aikimark
aikimark

I would call the client and ask them to meet me in the accountant's office/cubicle. Upon arrival, show them the email and ask them to explain in a manner that will restore your perception of their integrity. If there is no adequate explanation and immediate bounced-check payment (preferably in cash), then 'fire' them on the spot, leaving the urgent work unfinished. If they insist on you fixing the urgent problem before you leave, then insist on payment BEFORE resuming work. If this is a problematic customer, then bring your camera and record the confrontation and the screen of the email.

seancrosbie
seancrosbie

Since the consultant accepted the check without the late payment then kudos to the accountant! She was able to talk her way out of paying. But if the client is late again I would over step the accountant and explain to the office manager that you will not be able to service them unless your payment including late fees is sent. I would also let them know you have worked with them in the past on late fees but can no longer due business with them unless they can pay on time or accept the penalty. On another note the consultant was totally out of line for reading a clients email. There should be a tech republic poll of some kind to see how dishonest some IT guys can be.

allisonparkes
allisonparkes

If they have been a good client, I would review their payment history and, if indeed this is a one time occurrence, continue the relationship as if I hadn't seen the email exchange. If it becomes a pattern, then discontinuing the relationship might become an option.

tfox
tfox

I would meet with the client and discuss their overall satisfaction to see if there are any underlying issues. If they confirmed that everything is great, I would just keep a close eye on the account and be in contact right away if they went past 30 days.

databb
databb

Well since the information was obtained unfairly you can't really mention it. However I would use that as a FYI and for future payments reconfirm your striuct payment rules and fees for late payments and returned checks.

ChrisEvans
ChrisEvans

probably already been posted somewhere but my biggest concern is your complete lack of respect for client confidentiality. Its a good job that you are anonymous because admission of accessing the clients email is a career killer in my book. I do sympathise with the payment issue though and would suggest that the best option would be to give the client a final warning and if there are issues in future operate on a prepayment basis only.

ceh
ceh

Go home, Write the customer a mail stating that, "during review of the customer accounts" you have notised a missing payment of "10% fee, plus a charge of $35" /Claus

kurien
kurien

His focus has to be his work and nothing else. Whatever the thought process of the client. Focus on your work. Continue to ask for the payment - you deserve it for the work. The decision is yours a) how much do you want to pursue the 35$ payment b) knowing that they don't have the best of intentions, charge them for that 35$ payment over the next few bills. In future please do not peek into other people's mailboxes. It is ethically wrong.

eskerke
eskerke

Check your code of ethics and you will discover you are morally in the wrong. You are in the wrong business. Hopefully the client will discover your illegal and immoral activites and fires you and then takes legal action against you.

ben_rehberg
ben_rehberg

I say keep the client - at least they do pay, you know? The returned check fee can be collected on other line items. You can treat them the same as they treat you, but no conflict is necessary.

BaldEagle1996
BaldEagle1996

At current it is too late for him to fire the client. And he committed breach of trust by reading the email; he better never talk about his findings, or the client might sue him. He should wait until the next payment is late, and then fire the client.

tim
tim

First I would go over the contract completely before taking any action. If there is a clause indicating payment terms, and if these terms are not being met, then I would "remind" the client of this, and how their previous failure to meet their contractual obligations has already caused you harm. Further action would be determined by their response (not just verbal but what they do). If you have no such written agreement re: payment terms, then there is not much you can do other than enter into a gentleman's agreement or terminate your arrangement (pursuant to any applicable clauses in an existing contract).

BStraneva
BStraneva

YES!!! They do NOT respect you! I have learned the hard way that you MUST take a hard line with this if you want to have any credentials with them. They do not respect you or your work and will continue with the games unless you confront them. You don't need to let them know how you learned about this - and they won't ask = if you tell them that they need to pay up front from now on due to their history.

Hescominsoon
Hescominsoon

I don't run contracts so I can drop a client like a hot potato. I make it a point to know my clients well...however if they aren't upfront with me then there's a limit on what i can know. In the above case I would talk to the client but not mention the seen e-mail. If they continue to give issues over payment of the late fees and nsf fees drop them and consider legal action.

bob
bob

Ask for a meeting with the accountant's boss and explain her incompetance and the fact the she wasted your time and hers over two cents worth of interest. Writing emails and checks is not a free activity. Tell him that you will have to raise your rates to compensate for the accountant's incompetance if it continues. See how he reacts. If you don't like the reaction, quit the account.

biancaluna
biancaluna

The accountant tried to cover their mistake to the manager over your back by shining a negative light on the hero, he needs to leave his ego at the door and not take the email personally. I know that is hard as one wishes to bury the accountant and make them smart as much as you do but that is not the way to address this. She may have left this on screen on purpose, to make the hero feel worse, and thereby alleviate her guilt over her mistake. I can assure the hero that is what is going on as there would be no need to badmouth said hero if she would be professional enough to admit to her mistake. The psychology of people. As consultants, and specifically when we conduct apps or device level support, we see communications. Typically there are clauses in my contracts (upon which I insist if they are not there) that deal with visibility of corporate comms. I do not believe that you can actually address the email you saw in any form though. I typically asked clients to close mail or other programs when I was still conducting tech support many moons ago. That is a good practice to protect yourself and the hero may need to review their work practices to see if they are exposing themselves a smidgen too much. I do not wish to be exposed to folks' personal emails, thoughts about me, the neighbour's peeing cat, the new Porsche or any other issues. If there is no-one at the desk, call someone in whilst you state to them you are closing programs. Never ever work on a workstation without someone present. Then there is the issue of the bounced cheque fee. I do not know about other countries, but in Australia there is not a small claims court who would not award the hero the fee and direct the company to pay it. The element of reasonability needs to apply. I am assuming the hero's invoices have a standard payment term of whatever his company can bear? I have 7 days, and for some clients I allow 14. If the hero doe not have that, then it needs a review of workpractices again. What I would do is this. I would write a bill for the work I had conducted. I would also write a very polite letter to the CEO or anybody else very high up in the company referring to the bounced cheque issue, thanking the company for the prompt response to the concern and mentioning the importance of the relationship. Then I would address, very politely, the issue of my payment terms and my payment policies, the fact that the cheque was unsigned and bounced, that you have had to readdress this with the company etc etc. Leave your emotion out of it but insist that they pay the late payment fee. The hero needs to assert themselves. The hero needs to be clear about the outcome they want. The outcome that the hero may want is that the pay within payment terms next time. Give them a probation time. If the outcome the hero wants is to let this client go, I would write a very polite paragraph stating that it is obvious that the services you provide are not valued and that to your regret, you have to inform that you are no longer able to provide those services. You can cut someone off at the knees with polite words much better than an emotional battle with a frightened accountant. Move on, the best revenge is living well.

pat.woods
pat.woods

Who can honestly say they have never spoken in private about a client in a manner that they would never dream of speaking to them personally. The consultant shouldn't have been nosing in the client's email. We as consultants are in a position of trust and are often privy to information that we neither should see or wish to see. Let it slide and try to build a better relationship with your clients, especially those who have authority to sign the cheques.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

The kind who know and understand the value of your work and who are willing to pay for it because it solves their problems in the most expedient and efficient way. The kind who are just out to get the cheapest possible solution and don't care about anything or anybody but themselves. The first type of client is happy to pay your rate, doesn't haggle over price and pays promptly without hassles. They are a joy to work for -- educated, intelligent and aware. The second type will beg, bleat, barter, cry and whine to try and get you down to the price that puts you somewhere between poverty and bankruptcy and THEN will proceed to screw you -- either by paying late or not paying at all. I've fired plenty of the type-two clients and have absolutely no regrets about doing so. They are easy to recognize.

aharper
aharper

You should not have been snooping. Yes, that's precisely what that was. Further, you probably have some emails on your server that are less than complimentary to your clients and shouldn't be taken as representative of you, your business, or your ethics. That being said, you really can't let this go. While the returned check was your fault ultimately and you won't collect on that, they chose to ignore your company policy presumably made clear in your contract. Then they promptly hid behind their own policies, which likely were hastily erected to dodge paying fines to folks like you. Your course of action is fairly limited, unless you want to fess up to your snooping. The matter of a couple of dollars could loose you multiple clients if you want to start that war. Your options are as follows: 1. Keep them as a client, but be vigilant about dealing with this client financially. Yes, single them out. 2. If they informed you that they will not pay for fines and services according to the contract they signed, they are in breach of their contract with you. Deal with it legally and drop them. 3. My choice: Continue on with them, but when their contract comes up for renewal, take this event under consideration. Don't automatically drop them, but don't trust them either. You know what you are dealing with. Most importantly: you probably don't have the full context of the email. The accountant might have tried to cover his butt and made it seem that you were trying to grab more than your share. This would yield the symptoms you are seeing, and the only way to figure out what really happened is to stick around and see what unfolds. If I pegged it, the accountant will continue this unethical behaviour and will either sink the company or will be caught based on a preponderance of evidence, most of it circumstantial. Being their loyal friend through this difficult time could yield a lot of goodwill and word of mouth advertising for you. Finally, you are responsible for your own company. Ethics, customer relations, risk management and finances all come into play here. Do what is right for your company first, your client second. Good luck.

johnmckay
johnmckay

I go with the old adage at all times... "If you might not like the answer, dont ask the question". In this case he shouldn't have looked at the email as it was none of his business; most of us would though. The real crux is whether he wants to work with them on that basis... YES, but distance yourself and charge for all the extra hours you most likely ignored before. Travel, chatting, downloading, investigating. I'm sure there will be plenty of time unclaimed in the past to give an idea of where leverage can be gained. Eventually the client my go elsewhere BUT if he's delivering service, that won't be an easy decision for them to make. If they were to stop paying regularly it would be an easy step to stop responding so quickly next time. Play their game. It is a game at the end of the day; if neither were happy they'd walk away.

sxweiss
sxweiss

I wouldn't because you should not have been snooping. In my forty-plus years of dealing with commercial clients I've found that stretching out payment until the last possible moment is the rule rather than the exception unfortunately. I've had to force payment by shutting people off one way or another and I've learned the very worst record for payment in my history was a part of the federal government responsible for collecting money from the people and business in order to run the federal government. I would take the lesson to heart and I wouldn't bother to dump them in the future for late payment but not based on the particular set of circumstances that led to knowing the info you do. Burn 'em but have a clear, valid reason at the time and give some credence to an old expression that "buyers are liars and clerks are jerks." It will just make your life easier.

2manny.calderon
2manny.calderon

I worked 10yrs as a Corp Collections/Receivables Manager. Instances like this happen often, at least more than many assume. To protect oneself there is very little you can do. Choice A, contact the CFO if possible, or the Accounts Payable Manager and provide specific expectations of payment time lines (i.e. net 30, 45, 90). Be sure your agreement stipulates these time-lines! Choice B, you may request payment upfront however, more than likely they will move on to the next waiting contractor. Choice C, Fire them, Pursue in court... Choosing this path will not only agitate but also hurt future business prospects. I would only do this as last resort.

TechrepLath
TechrepLath

I find the "discovery" of the email to be irrelevant. I would not let my actions be guided by this in any way. In fact I assumed the situation to be something like this before I got to that part of the article... (especially from small companies who quite frequently invent "policies" in the absence of arguments). I'm not a big believer in late fees to begin with, but if it was stated in the contract I would remind the customer of the agreement and stand on principle until they agreed to pay up... If it was not clearly stated in the contract, I would suggest letting it go and reviewing your own policies to include what you want as your reputation to be. You should not be seen as a pushover, but not as a "pigheaded" penny pincher either. I'm sure a professional compromise is possible. So, don't fire the client just yet, but decide how you want to handle these cases in the future.

duane_garrett
duane_garrett

When the time comes to re-negoiate rates, build the expected late fees onto the contract as a buffer.

doug
doug

It is our company?s policy not to pay late fees or service charges. I looked at our history of payment, and normally we have paid your company within 30-60 days. I admit this payment went a bit beyond that, but I assure you it won?t happen again. If this continues to be an issue, let me know and we can sit down with the Office Manager next time you?re in the office.? Is that actually legal to make it a company policy NOT to pay late fees? Who wouldn't want to put that in their policy. You'd never have to pay on time. Seriously tho, I'd be cautious about keeping them. It was unclear whether the client had delayed payment before. Considering that he deposited the check sent with the letter, he basically said he agreed to the clients intentions of not paying the fee. If he wanted the fee, he should have set up a meeting immediately, taken the check with him, and discussed it then. That incident will pretty much have to be chalked up to experience. I would have a paragraph put in any future contracts with ANYBODY stating the late fee/return check policy. The email, while a great insight in their view of you, should not be brought up on any account. Even though the email account was left open, there is kind of an unspoken trust thing that keeps you from going through all their files (unless it deals directly with the issue you are hired for). The fact that he had to dig around to find the email would kill any trust developed. And, depending on that client's connections, could seriously damage his reputation. If it had been left open on the screen when he sat down, that's another thing. I would either find a graceful way to stop accepting jobs from them, or wait until the next time they were late. Then drop them immediately based on that. Of course, he needs to review his contract to make sure there isn't a grace period, etc.

jefferyp2100
jefferyp2100

First of all: You may have legal issues if you opened the email or browsed the office manager's inbox without a good reason to do so, so do not tell the client about it. What does your contract with the client say about when payment is due or collection fees? You do have a signed contract with the client, don't you? You should have your rates in writing, along with fees for late payments, discount for early payments, returned check fees, etc. One important point -- in some states you can charge for collection fees and legal fees, but only if you have a written agreement or contract signed before hand.

CFOI
CFOI

I dont think he should fire his client, he should continue to do the task at hand. At least he will have his dignity intact if the relationship were to turn even more sour than it already is. There's nothing like making a person whom deserves to squirm, especially an accountant.LOL

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

If you have numerous clients and spend very much time in this business, this is going to happen sooner or later. The options in the survey included: A) Require pre-payment in the future (35%) B) Talk to the client about the situation (18%) C) Jack up the client's rate (16%) D) Drop the client immediately and explain your reasons why (12%) E) Let it slide for now (10%) F) Other (explain in the discussion) (6%) G) Drop the client but don't explain why -- just stop returning their calls (4%) I might have replied "Most of the Above". I've done most of these things and in various combinations. It's totally situational. Some clients who are slow paying and a pain might be worth $150/hour if they're willing to pay that; and they might since they are going to have trouble keeping any other consultant. Some clients aren't worth the trouble at any price, especially ones that never pay. I'd usually start with the "talk" option, although there have been some where I knew that would be a waste of time, like the one in the situation above. I think you just have to use situational common sense. But one thing you must never do: Never feel guilty about your decision. It's not you; They entered into a contract that they were not willing to fulfill; They are the ones not acting honorably.

pbenson
pbenson

Been there, too, in the downturn of 1982-4. It may best to let them stick to their payment schedules and change your billing policy to 10 days = 2% off (and show that amount on the billing), net to our office 60 ("per your policy xxxxxx - quote them their own chapter and verse), 60+ = 4% interest (and show that amount, too). Next time they are late you can stop work until the prior payment is received with the interest due. The AP folks obviously are watching their due dates and feeling pretty smug about it. Oh, and snooping is unethical and probably illegal so NEVER NEVER NEVER say you know anything. Take that to the grave with you.

lwhitehall
lwhitehall

I did have this situation where a company did this. I did tell them that they would have to pay a retainer for my services. They dropped me as their provider (no big loss). The firm that took my contract wound up sueing the clint for the same thing, and won.

hilltopperatx
hilltopperatx

I should try telling my apartment complex it is my policy not to pay late fees! See how far that gets me... In all seriousness, this client needs to be dropped like 3rd period French. Provided your contract stipulates a late fee must be paid, they breached this term, therefore (if allowed), there must be some sort of enforcement here. That said, it may not be the best option in the future to read customer's emails. That is not exactly ethical, despite what you found. I would advise leaving that tidbit out when you terminate your relationship with the client.

Casey.Strickling
Casey.Strickling

You should not have been in the email unless you had a specific business reason to be there. Would you want a painter going through your clothes dresser. Let it slide. Honor your contract and if you want out, get out when you can, but remember that people call references, so get out gracefully.

A contractor
A contractor

By no measn let on you know what was there. It may be a setup. (BTW - I also believe there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll in Dallas, who was a trained sniper. ) Complete your contract. When it comes up for renewal or you don't have one, include your payment penalities in the contract and as part of every invoice. If they don't agree, respectfully decline to renew and move on. You might included disputes go to binding arbitration. With these kind of clients, the third letter would be from my lawyer explaining they have 24 hours to courier payment plus penalities or the contract is being terminated. Then file a complaint with the BBB. Not much you can do unless you have very deep pockets for the lawyers.

damian.murphy
damian.murphy

The letter received from the accountant was written in professional language terms. The email to the manager was in terms acceptable to their friendship/relatinoship. Big difference. What it really shows it that no matter what you think of the client, in this case you will only ever be seen as another supplier. Their bottom line is more important to them than you are. You need to recognise that in this case and treat them accordingly.

jneville
jneville

For all this consultant knows, similar conversations go on between the accountants and office manager's of all his clients. He has a little bit of information he shouldn't have had, he can't act on it (this is his business and career we're talking about) so he has to grin and bare it. He needs to react in the exact same way as if he had seen nothing. It still might be a one off instance. If its not, then he can take it further. At least then he'll have a little more background knowledge than they realise and he won't settle for an agreement that may be acceptable without this knowledge, but it completely unacceptable when all the facts are known.

jmbeauford
jmbeauford

Here is what I might recommend. We all know that businesses are hurting do to the economic downturn. Think about how you can both capitalize on this by changing your services/product to better meet the changing needs of your customers. If you can talk to your clients and approach them with a new updated SLA and talk to them about how late payments affects your business as well, you will come out more respected with a better understanding of your clients, and better equipped to handle their needs. "How am I serving your clients needs?" is a better question than "Should I dump my client?". Remember, you started your business for some reason. Are the actions of your business in line with your mission / vision statement? Jason M. Beauford (Business Coach)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Right -- failure to defend the terms of your own contract essentially sets those terms aside.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... just mutually stab each other in the back until someone gets caught outright? That doesn't seem like the relationship of trust that I find necessary to a successful long-term engagement.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Very good advice. I get the impression that the consultant's emotions are playing havoc with that clarity.

Techcited!
Techcited!

Marty's reply is the best I have seen so far. After 9 years of consulting, I am finally starting to get it. Marty, you are so right. There really are two types. And the first type really are a joy to work with. The check is always there on time. They never question anything you do. You really get the sense that you are valuable to them. No better feeling in the world. If I were the OP, I would see if I can move the customer into this group. If not, move on politely and find other, better customers.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

and that works pretty well, even though they still plead and moan. You've got to stick to your policies with them, though. Give them an inch...

Techcited!
Techcited!

AHarper. IMHO, you have at least one thing right here. Responsibility. This is something I often don't see enough of in posts of this nature. Ultimately, it was the OP's responsibility to make sure the check was right before sending it to the bank. You can try to collect the fee. However, in my opinion, you have to chalk that one up to your own mistake. As for late fees, I gave up on those long ago. The same customers kept racking up the same late fees never paying them anyway. I just decided that the late fees created too many headaches. And, more often than not, it just created more bad blood between me and my customer. I no longer have late fee customers. Don't need 'em. Too many good ones. With regard to the e-mail, I would never "peruse" anyone's e-mail. That is not right. Now, that's not to say I haven't seen an "e-mail of interest" from time-to-time. They are usually up in a preview window or some such thing. I didn't go out of my way to read them. Really they were in the way. But the info that I gleaned from them was filed away for later consideration. With the e-mail that you perused, knowing what you know only helps your situation. The e-mail is not something you can use directly with the customer. But it is collateral info you can use in making a decision on whether to keep the customer or not. Again, OP is responsible for all of the things that AHarper mentions. If you look at Marty's comments below, I think I know where this customer stands based on their actions and their e-mail. I'll give you a hint. Category 2.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Ah, I hadn't thought of that -- but it makes sense. They catch him in an unethical behavior (reading their email) and then they've got him by the short hairs. "We'll just forget this ever happened, and you can just be happy with how we pay you. We wouldn't dream of mentioning this little indiscretion to any of your other clients or prospects..."

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

I agree that the e-mail is essentially harmless. You shouldn't have seen it and you shouldn't judge folks by what they say in private. You should however judge them by their actions and frankly, I would never have seen the e-mail because I'd never work for them again until they'd paid off their past due late fees and other standard charges. Maybe they are under-handed and shifty or maybe they are poorly run or maybe they simply have cashflow problems. You don't want your business to be infected with any of those. Reading the e-mail is irrelevant. Put it out of your mind and make a decisions based on their actions, not on your guilt over your own actions.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

What does this [i]"Consultant"[/i] say about his clients behind their back? :D Col

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

They need my services for free. Right glad we got that cleared up.... Your business serves you first and foremost, if not, you haven't got one. You should try to get out more. Success isn't an accident, it's making sure more money comes in than goes out.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Big mistake to respond to their "emergency" without collecting the late fee first.

jmbeauford
jmbeauford

Its not about giving away your services, it's about changing them to fit the needs of your customers. You can have a great product and great marketing, but if your product doesn't fit the needs of your customers, no one will buy. Thinking in terms of how your business can serve you is just one aspect. One which will not generate any income whatsoever. Without paying customers, your business will not succeed. Therefore I offer the idea of thinking how your business can serve those customers. You're absolutely right about success. It is not an accident. It's something that one creates. There are good businesses and there are great businesses. What sets them apart is the culture of the stakeholders. If you believe that your business serves you first, you may be able to convince some clients to purchase what you're selling. However you probably wont get them to buy again. If you shift that belief to your business serving your customers, you wont have to convince anyone to buy your product, because it will be an irresistible offer. Additionally, selling them a second glass of what you're offering will be that much easier. Keep in mind this advice is meant for the OP and not to counterpoint your argument Tony Hopkinson. I wish the OP the best in his/her ventures.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I was merely indicating that Microsoft might not be the best model to follow.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

When I was consulting I was desperate to preserve my client list as well, better still expand it, better still, get better customers, ones I could derive greater value from. I agree with you about trying to work more in partnership, to find ways that benefit you both. You can't have a meaningful partnership with some one who deliberately rips you off and calls you names behind your back though can you? The only way to get from that point to a useful relationship, is to kick them in the nuts so they learn some respect, bending over and taking it, is not going to cut it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

have been a classic example for me of a company no matter how much it preaches customer first never practices it. This company who listens to it customers wanting security, recently nipped in and broke the security of a few million of it's customers, to leverage it's own product, for their own good of course. After all they know best they are the experts, the fact that they happen to increase their potential profit by doing so was another accident. You are essentially talking about quality, quality is something you add emough of to dominate the market, so you can stop having to bear the cost of it. Why would you lose face by dropping a customer? If they are shorting you simply because they can they are shorting everyone else, probably their customers as well. I've been in the industry for decades, don't you think I've heard customer first before? What from my attitude do you think I've seen practiced by those who just preached it? I am not some MBA fresh out college mate, my ears dried out along time ago, I'll service the customer when it profits me to do so, just like anyone else who wants to be vaguely successful in our dog eat dog world.

jmbeauford
jmbeauford

Microsoft may be desperate that's a possibility. However you must agree that they do have a very successful business model with Bill Gates being one of the richest men in the world. And you're right about it being a different business model. As a consultant, are you serving your clients 100% to their needs? If not, you might want to give it a shot to really improve those relationships, integrity and future income. What's up with the "desperate" comment? How is that relevant to the OP's question?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... that Microsoft is desperate, and scrambling to preserve their desktop hegemony. Not quite the same business model as us consultants. Or perhaps you feel desperate to preserve your client list?

jmbeauford
jmbeauford

We could look at Microsoft for an example. We all know there was an outcry with Vista. Businesses weren't ready to adopt the OS. The populous generally regarded the VISTA OS as something that they just were not going to upgrade to. End result: Microsoft listened to their customers and reinvented a way the could better serve them. Case and point, Windows 7. To help ease the transition, they even gave away BETA and RC1 releases with ease. They wanted to make sure that the public was accepting and would actually use their new OS. Of course I can't submit any other examples because for me to know the inner workings of a particular business, I'd have to work there. I can tell you that I model my own business after the concepts I've put forth to you. I consider myself to be very successful. One last point, after which will be no retort from me: If you have never tried my suggestion, how can you possibly comment? If you put your best foot forward and think about how you can best serve your customers, you will be able to create stronger relationships, all the while increasing sales and profits. One thing that will happen if the OP drops his client is he definitely will lose a customer, lose face through word of mouth and lose income. Why not give my suggestion a try? You put so much effort into responding to these posts. If you put half that effort into figuring out how your business can serve its customers, you could be raking in the dollars and building meaningful relationships with your customers. Cheers! JMB

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Name a successful well known business that practices what you are preaching. Come on surprise me, one will do....