Are your clients toxic?
Everything is going great, but toxic clients are holding you back from your business dreams. You are in business, have clients and customers, and are out to change your life and theirs. What happens when you enter into a business relationship with a client that turns out to be toxic? Have you ever wished you never began working with that client?
Starting a business is meant to eradicate all the stress and limitations in your life. It’s intended to bring you everything you ever wanted and more; freedom, choice and control over your own destiny. You believe you can provide more value to clients, and your work has more meaning by having that one-to-one relationship you never had as an employee.
But now, you feel stressed, and upset and begin to doubt yourself. There may be times you think you made a mistake starting your own business. An onset of internal self criticism, chastisement and doubt ensues.
Did you ever stop to think that the problem may not be you and it may be your choice of clients? Like any bad relationship, we have choices to make, and like it or not, mistakes happen. Let me share a recent incident with a client that had me pondering my own decisions. Although I’m not new to the business world, this case reminded me that there are always lessons to learn that will humble even the most seasoned business person.
The Friday afternoon call
Everything in our business relationship set off correctly. We had an agreement on the services my business was to provide and the fees. The agreement included the responsibility of each party and the restrictions and scope of the work to be done. Somehow the expectations the client had of my company were sorely misplaced despite our agreement.
What started out as a call to discuss our services and to highlight a problem that had been uncovered in software, turned into a 2-hour long call where this client proceeded to berate one of my companies, S.E. Tax Professionals Ltd and claim to know how to do it all better. I quickly realised this was a toxic relationship and I alerted this client we would be disengaging while still on our call.
In business when there is a problem it should be discussed, and resolution or mediation offered. In this situation, there was no mistake made to rectify only a gross misunderstanding the client had of our agreement and their own expectations.
I would like to share with you a few of the things that quickly made me realise why this working agreement could not continue and that it was toxic.
- Was delinquent when we engaged with them.
- Did not communicate any problems and ask for additional help.
- Undid and re-did our work unbeknownst to our team.
- Spent most of the call accusing and berating rather than discussing and mitigating.
- Made demands on how, when and who would work on their case as a priority over other clients.
- Did not review the finished work and flag errors before finalising.
- Refused to provide the required and requested information to allow us to complete our work.
- Was unwilling to accept their own part in the errors that had arisen and work to find a resolution together.
These are the flags of a toxic business relationship that will drag you down in your business. I had made the wrong decision to act for this client and ultimately this was my mistake. Fortunately, all of my other clients are wonderful people and a dream to work with. This is not down to good luck, it is down to good screening and zero tolerance to accept abuse at work.
It was clear this client was not a good fit and within 6 months it was over. There are no second chances, the damage was done.
“This will not work this way. We can no longer continue this working relationship. “
Let Your Toxic Clients Go.
Why have I shared my story of a toxic client with you? It’s not to prove who is right and who is wrong in this scenario. I share this with you because no doubt you have, or likely will be, in a similar situation with a client or customer.
Professional service providers go into business with a passion to help others. It’s no wonder that when one of our clients is upset that we feel this too. After all, it’s rare that a professional enters into business and goes through years of training and education with the purpose of scamming someone. No, we care about our clients and our work. When that work and compassion is not valued or reciprocated it can affect ones confidence.
Know this, you do not need to stay in a toxic relationship with your clients even if you are a new business owner. You are doing a disservice to your dreams and to the clients who truly value your time, knowledge and expertise.
Signs of a Toxic Client Relationship
A toxic business relationship is not so different from a toxic personal relationship. There are signs and flags to alert you that you have toxic clients. Below are the red flags I watch out for when identifying toxic clients.
- Toxic communication
- Controlling & demanding behaviours
- Dishonesty & Inflexibility
- Patterns of Disrespect
- Negative Behaviours
- Constant Stress
- Low team morale
- Hostility and Argumentative
- Constant Scope Creep
Avoid, Resolve or End it with Toxic Clients
All is not lost if the two of you are willing to work together. You may have your reasons for continuing this relationship or you may decide that this client is too toxic and you want to end it.
The bottom line is that this is business and you and your team are not there to be bullied, pressured or intimidated into acting against the values of your business.
“A mistake is a lesson not a failure”