By Dave Cava, Executive Coach

The picture with this post is from my first and only truly viral social media post.  Why did it go viral?  Most business owners fantasize about firing clients.  Few have the backbone and confidence to do it.

When I owned an MSP (Managed Service Provider), it was rare to outright fire a client, but when we did, we made it an all-company celebration.  We turned it into a (very) positive occasion.  It was a show of love and support for our employees.

There were plenty of times when we raised an unprofitable client’s rates, essentially daring them to leave us.  Sometimes they did, and that was okay.  Sometimes they stayed and took the increase – either result was completely acceptable.  It is good to shed unprofitable, C-level clients who create a disproportionate amount of “stress per dollar” – my favorite made up, unquantifiable metric.  It’s just as good when you are able to raise their rates to the point where they no longer fall into that C-level category.  Clients are only unprofitable when YOU allow them to be.  You raise their rates and mandate they implement up to date systems.  You play a game of chicken.  If they leave, they leave.  You quite literally have nothing to lose.  You’re losing money already.

Some of the clients we fired were actually quite profitable.

We straight up fired clients when they committed the unpardonable sin – the sin of dehumanizing our techs.  When I first got into tech support, I was taught that taking crap from people was part of the job, and part of any job that involved customer service, really.  To some degree that is true.  That said, there is a big difference between absorbing some of people’s frustrations (which is fine, and a sign of maturity and poise) and allowing yourself or your team to be abused.  We fired clients who were abusers.  We fired clients who thought that they could treat our lower-level employees as less than human because they were rich, or angry, or both, and they were just dealing with a kid out of college or an immigrant.  Those clients got one warning.  Then they got canned.  They weren’t used to being canned.  It was actually pretty funny.  They usually begged us to take them back.  Very much like an abuser, huh?

Our one unbreakable rule was you will treat our people with respect or you will not be our client.  As a business owner, your most valuable resource is not your degree, or your business acumen, or your contacts.  It is your employees.  To the degree you appreciate them, they will help make you wealthy and successful.  And to the degree you disrespect them or allow them to be trampled under foot, they will make you miserable.

If mutual respect is missing from your firm’s relationship with your clients, something is terribly wrong.  Insist on it.  It is a hill to die on.