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Client Conflict

By johnbennett ·
We are a small firm that provides contracted IT services to small businesses. We have a client that we have been providing contracted IT services to over the last two plus years. We also provide additional IT services to them should the needs arise and have been available to them 24/7. Since our involvement, we have instituted several crucial technology solutions to them (Citrix, VPN, SQL Databases, WAN solutions, redundant hardware, software, etc.) and all have proven to be extremely reliable and stable. Prior to our involvement, their network operations were performing at a 50% uptime rate of operation. We have also been able to show them how to significantly cut costs in their communications needs, web and email hosting, etc.

Overall, the employees, Director, CFO, and Office Manager have been very pleased with the results and have made it known on several occasions. The Office Manager is especially pleased that she is now able to perform the role she was hired for and to not have to deal with computer-related technical issues. The CFO comments quite frequently that this has been the first time she has ever been in a networked environment that is up "all the time".

The problem we are encountering is with the President of the company. She is not technically literate and has often made comments to other staff members that she could operate a business with two telephones and Quick Books quite efficiently. She has gone on to cut our day-to-day involvement with the company quite significantly and we are at the point now where we are wondering if our services are wanted at the client site at all. She has stated to the Office Manager that she must be contacted directly for any work performed by us over 15 minutes. She frequently asks the Office Manager why she isn't setting up VPN or Remote Users and updating the servers and databases, etc. We feel like our hands our tied and cannot perform work for them to the fullest of our abilities. We even need to call in advance to make sure the coast is clear before we visit the office now.

Still, they have been a good client for the last two years and always pay on time. I have told the Office Manager in the past that we need clarification from them on what the current expectations are but the Office Manager always seems to shy away from responding. I have told the Office Manager that if our contract is not going to be honored then maybe we could switch to a flat hourly rate (an increase of almost 70% over our existing one) but she knows that they have it quite good right now.

I am torn between continuing to feel like we are walking on eggshells each time we perform work for them or simply moving forward and replacing them with another client (sometimes not the easiest thing to do). Still, at this rate, it is almost insulting and humiliating to continue to work with them under the current climate. We see great value in the services we provide and have been able to show that to them but it doesn't seem to matter.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

John

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Never underestimate the ability of idiots to become company presidents

by DC_GUY In reply to Client Conflict

It's happening all over America. Even major corporations with a substantial impact on the national economy are in the hands of people who can, without exaggeration, be called either morons or crooks. From your description, it sounds as though the company president either has a hidden agenda and does not truly have the company's best interests at heart, or is simply not qualified for leadership. Everything that has been postulated about threats to her ego may be true enough. But in the final analysis a competent leader has the wisdom and maturity to rise above such petty concerns and realize that you are contributing to the success of her company and thereby facilitating her own success. You've dismissed all other possible explanations for her ill will: your work has been consistently outstanding, she has met you personally, her subordinates give her accurate feedback. The only possible excuse left is that she is either nefarious (hoping to give the contract to a friend, relative, or someone who promises a kickback) or simply incompetent. In either case your client firm is poorly run and it cannot hope to remain successful in today's tough market. Do whatever damage control you find appropriate to make as much profit as you can from this client during its downfall and to help its hapless employees make the most of a bad situation. But start looking for a replacement: this company is doomed. These are tough times; our country has lost both its brains and its scruples. Your experience is but a microcosm of the entire U.S. economy.

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Unfortantly this is not a US problem alone

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Never underestimate the a ...

As it happens all over the world.

Start looking for a new client and make the best of a bad situation knowing that you eventually well get shafted and most likely for some unnecessary poor reason as it makes the Manager look good in the short term and most likely will lead to the downfall of the company in the long term.

It is people like this that make our jobs far harder than they need to be and at the same time bring you're company into disrepute as when they fail you will be at least partway blamed if not wear the entire blame for the failure.

If it was one of my customers I would just pull the plug now and start finding another client before any more damage is done to you're organisation.

You can site the reasons as being impossible to perform a "Proffesional Service" as a reason for breaking the current contract or you can just work out the current contract and not renew it when the time comes. But either way I would get out of thsi position ASAP before you end up wearing the blame for what goes wrong in this company.

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Similar Situation

by Eric9 In reply to Client Conflict

Hi Johnbennett,

I am in a very similar situation to you, I work for a small network consulting group, and was in a very similar situation to you. There were two owners to the company in question, one absolutely loved us, the other thought we were a waste of money; tried to get us to give her lower rates, something that we could not afford to do, and in turn decided to go with a moonlighter.

About a week after we stopped working for them their moonlighter called us up and started asking extremely basic questions, such as how to add a computer to a domain. It was a very hard thing for me to do, but I had to refuse to help him.

Last week they called us back, they finally fired the moonlighter and want us back. We asked about rates, and the other owner said she understands where our price comes from. (meaning the person they were paying $40 an hour for didn't know squat)

One thing you could do is be very blunt with her, talk "business owner to business owner" with the president. Say, "Listen ___, I am getting a feeling that you are no longer trusting us; would you feel comfortable telling me if there is no reason for us to do business any more?" That is a very hard ****, but it will resolve this right then and there. In every case that I have used that I got the answer, "No No, thats not the case, I just feel..." And you end up getting to the root of the problem, which could be that the owner feels you were not giving her choices, or you were not keeping her in the loop, or something. Maybe unlike most owners she is really a techy at heart, and wants you to be her tutor; and all the decisions made about the IT area of her company are made as a joint decision between her and her advisor?

I am a firm believer of, "If you feel it, say it."

Eric

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