As Your Business Changes, So Should Your Client List

When I started my first marketing company in 1996, I used to joke that if a client were willing to pay me to wash their car, I would be there with my bucket and sponge.  Maybe it was a bit of an exaggeration, but it wasn’t too far off.  Most startup businesses need one thing desperately – clients.  So there isn’t much work that you wouldn’t take if a client is willing to pay you for it.

As you grow and change, however, these practices must stop!  The idea of taking on work for the sake of having work is about as unappealing as me showing up in my “Daisy Dukes” to wash your car. I know… Kind of gross when you think about it.  So every company that becomes successful ultimately changes as they grow. This change includes reassessing your client list and helping those clients who no longer fit into your model find a new home.

It’s a weird thought, passing your clients to someone else, but it is a necessity. Ultimately, those clients who no longer are a good ‘fit’ for your company are the ones who could be holding you back or dragging you down.  Think about it.  If you are providing services that are outside your ‘wheelhouse’ for a client who has been with you for a long time, you are probably only doing it to be nice.  I can just hear you talking under your breath about how you hate doing this work. 

Come on… Admit it.

Maybe it’s time for that client to find a new provider.  The great thing is that you can help them to make the transition and come out looking like a hero. Remember, there are about 543,000 new businesses that get started every month in the U.S. Surely you can find a company that you trust to which you can “hand off” these clients.  Your goal should be to get out of a relationship that isn’t working while helping both your client and the company that better fits your client’s needs.

Think about what you just did.  You made your client happy, even though you basically fired them.  You handed another company a client and did some beneficial matchmaking.  So, everyone is better off, and you may even get some referrals from it!  Your client will tell their friends how easy you made the transition, and the company who got the referral could pass some work on to you.  Remember, small companies sometimes are offered big jobs that they cannot handle.

It’s important to keep in mind that you want to build a network of companies that you really trust so that you are doing your best to continue your former client’s success. Don’t just hand them off to anyone or this plan could completely backfire.  Also, don’t refer a really horrible client to a trusted business just to rid yourself of the pain.  Again, backfire.

So what have we learned?  First, the idea of me in a pair of Daisy Dukes is wildly unappealing.  That’s a given.  Second, don’t feel like you have to hang onto every client just because they are sending you a check for work you hate doing.  When you move them out, you will make more room for your business to grow.  Third, you need to establish a network of companies who can help those clients that you need to fire.  This will help with a smooth transition and make you look good in the business community.

I know the idea of willfully losing clients is a bit scary at first, but once you see how it helps your company, you will thank me.  Just don’t ask me to wash your car.