Should You Ever Fire A Client?

Many Kelowna accountants have to decide when the time has come when they need to break the ties with difficult clients.We’ve all had them. That one client or customer that has your staff running to the bathroom as soon as they spot them pulling in the parking lot. They may mean well but nonetheless they could be driving you and your staff crazy.

These types of situations are never fun and can really put you between a rock and a hard place. You know that your gut is telling you that the fit isn’t right but the cheques are still arriving on time so the client must be happy, right?

Maybe not.

As a business owner, you are well acquainted with fear of the unknown and the joyful and not so joyful surprises it can bring.

Let me assure you, you do not want to be anything short of completely positive that your business relationship is working for both you and your client. If there is anything that is not mutually beneficial to you and your client then you cannot delay with fixing it, or your reputation will be at stake.

Here are a few signs that your working relationship is not working out:

1. You Can’t Help Someone Who Won’t Help Themselves

This rings true throughout every aspect of our lives from personal to professional relationships. The greatest advice in the world is only words without action to put it into motion.

It is frustrating when you are doing everything you can to help your clients but they do not follow through on anything to help themselves.

Obviously your clients are free to make their own decisions and do what is best for them, but when your client is not taking the advice they are paying you for not only can that be frustrating but it can potentially harm your reputation too.

Stop sign indicating when Kelowna accountants need to fire a client.2. Your Resources Are Being Eaten Alive

I don’t recommend penny pinching expense costs with your clients, especially with resources you account for in your quote to them. However, there are exceptions where certain clients push the boundary of acceptable practice to the point that it begins to cut into your bottom line and affect other aspects of your business. This is where action needs to be taken.

Clients that tend to eat up more than their share of your allocated resources generally suffer from the same issue highlighted in point #1 so make sure you are addressing problems as they present themselves. Put the necessary corrective actions in place and be transparent with your client so they understand your current relationship is not working and needs some changes.

3. Dissatisfaction Is On The Horizon

Some of your clients are going to be upfront about their thoughts, which is great, but there will be many that won’t be vocal about all their concerns or issues.

If you know or sense that your client is at all unsatisfied, start by dissecting the problem and figure out a solution to present to spare them the trouble of having to bring it up to you first.  Once you’ve opened the floor for discussion, you will often get more dialogue to help you get to the root of the problem.

Before You Cut Your Ties…

It should go without saying that this situation should be handled delicately but you must do everything in your power to solve any and all issues in a reasonable and efficient manner before firing a client.

Your reputation isn’t worth risking and the more money your client spends before you do something about it, only makes the situation worse.

Under what circumstances would you consider firing a client in your business? Leave a message in the comments below.

4 Responses to Should You Ever Fire A Client?

  • Great post Ken

    In these tough economic times, when every dollar counts, firing a client is hard to do. I find the most effective measure is obtaining a signed retainer agreement at the outset of the relationship. Clearly defining your role and duties, the expectations, the costs involved, etc. goes a long way to establishing a good working relationship.

    A lot of times, I find a client perceived to be overly demanding simply wishes to obtain more services from a trusted advisor. The advisor mistakenly thinks the client is trying to take obtain additional services for free, when in fact, the client is more than willing to pay for something they really want.

    If things start to go sideways, setting up a meeting to review the original agreement, can serve as a means to clear the air. Perhaps all that is needed is an amendment to the agreement, which will satisfy your client’s additional demands, and maybe provide you some additional income. A win-win for both parties.


  • Ken Davidson says:

    Thanks for your comments, Clyde. You’ve made some great points and I especially appreciate your philosophies on service as we seem to share similar views.

    Whenever things aren’t running smoothly it becomes essential to discuss it immediately and professionally. There can be several reasons that are going on behind-the-scenes that could be contributing to the dissatisfaction of either party and the first step is prompt communication.

    Happy Holidays!

  • The 80/20 rule is hard at work here too – 80% of your revenue often comes from only 20% of your clientele. Seeing it from that perspective sometimes makes it easier to let go of un-ideal clients, even when times are tough.

  • I agree with this in principle however, if that were the case I wouldn’t have any clients left. We need to indicate early on what is expected. I usually try to get an understanding or agreement early in the process to avoid the problems. If I encounter issues communicate with the client discuss and resolve issues before they become monumental.


    Dwight Carroll

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