Firing your clients [SMB Consulting Best Practices book excerpt]

Hiya – been offline for a few days with my SMB Nation Europe workshop – but its good to be back! I am the author for the above title and I like to hold virtual book readings wherein I post up passages. This is a good one on firing your client!

Firing Your Clients

A big part of maturing as an SMB consultant and part of growing your business is about making the right engagement decisions along the way. Accept a bad engagement, and you’ll undoubtedly have a few of those, and watch your profit level fall, your energy become depleted, and your good attitude go south.

Identifying bad fits

You can typically identify a bad-fit client without a superfluity of words of wisdom from me. A very basic sign would be that things aren’t going well when you’re at the client site. Perhaps the environment is consistently tense and the conversations terse. Worst of all, the client isn’t paying your invoices in a timely manner. “Face the facts,” as the new self-help TV guru Dr. Phil would bellow: You aren’t going to get referrals from this client.

BEST PRACTICE: A point I’ll make several times in this book is that your goal is to have each of your clients be referenceable and referable. Clients that are bad fits should be fired.

Terminating a relationship

Each situation is different, but often the easiest way to terminate the client relationship is to explain to the client that you’re taking the practice in a “new direction” and you’ll be happy to help them line up another consultant. You will often need to dedicate a few hours, usually not billable, to the old client in helping transition the account to this new consultant. Why isn’t this work, in reality, billable? A client who’s been fired isn’t too pleased about paying you for additional work, such as a transition.

BEST PRACTICE: As usual, timing is everything. Be sure to time the termination of your client so that you have minimal outstand­ing accounts receivable or monies owed from this entity. You don’t want to terminate an account and be out some serious money.


Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation (

MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)

PS – did you know my Windows Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is almost here? Yes!


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