Is It Time to Fire That Customer? 8 Ways to Know

By Paul B. Brown | Small Business

You never want to do it often, but sometimes it just better to end the relationship.

I fired a long-standing client the other day and quite frankly I should have done it sooner.

They always required more work than they willing to pay for; the hoops you had to jump through to get paid were exhausting, and recently--as their business started to take off--they were becoming borderline arrogant.

When they called a couple of days ago and offered me dramatically below market rates for something that needed to be done quickly, I said enough.

Actually what I said was "I don't think I am the right resource for you any longer," but the effect was the same.

I fired them.

When was the last time you fired a customer or client?

You're Allowed to Ask That Question Again

At the height of the great Recession that would have been a ridiculous question to ask. We all needed whatever jobs we could get.

But now things are better for most of us, and so it might be a good time to take a look at your ongoing relationships and see if they still make sense.

Everyone will have a different checklist they use to figure out if it worth working with customers. Here's the one I went through before firing the client--and I provided my answers as well.

1. Do you like doing the work? (Yes. They were exactly the client I dreamed about when I set up shop.)

2. Does it fit with what you are trying to do with your company? (Absolutely. They were the perfect customers to point to when people asked what I did.)

3. Do you like the people you are working with? (Progressively, no.)

4. Do you hate the people you are working with? (If the answer to this one is yes, I don't need to ask any of the other questions. They are history.)

5. Is the pay somewhere near where it would be. (It never really was. They were always on the low-end of the scale, but they could get away with that because of their reputation.)

6. Is it costing you the chance to work on something else that either could be more enjoyable, or fit better with your brand? (This one is a mixed bag. I couldn't find a better fit on the brand, but the relative low pay and the fact that they sucked up a lot of uncompensated time was costing me money.)

7. Is there some intangible reason you would like the relationship to continue--the client lends prestige to your brand; it raises your profile; you don't have to travel much? (In this case, there were a lot of intangibles, including the fact they I hardly ever needed to travel.)

8. Are they responsive, responsible and respectful? (Progressively, no.)

When I added everything up, the scores were trending in the wrong direction.

No, you don't want to fire customers/clients indiscriminately or on a whim.

And yes, of course, you want to raise your objections, problems, and concerns before you get to the point of saying goodbye.

But, on rare occasions, it is okay to say goodbye.

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