Everyone in consulting at some point has reached the end of the rope
with a client, either through nonpayment, not listening, or any number
of reasons that someone can come up with. Not all businesses are built
equally and even though they will hire a very high priced client, when
they stop listening, or when they stop paying it is time to fire them.
Just about every consultant ends up at the “I must fire the client”
point in their career. Last Thursday night I hit my “Must fire my
client” mostly because they had stopped listening to what I was saying.
Beyond not listening, there was the realization that there was no point
in continuing the relationship both because of things I was doing and
things they were doing to create a toxic environment. When the gig gets
to Toxic it is well past time to call it a day and walk away.
Regardless of how much money I walked away from, the basic fact was
that I could do nothing else to help them. There was nowhere to go,
nothing left to say, they were committed to their path and I was
committed to mine.
Thankfully not all my engagements have ended this way; actually
firing my client was not something I have had to resort to in a very
long time. Generally people listen, they act, and their business
improves, or if it does not, if there is no improvement or savings, we
rethink what we are doing and how we are going about accomplishing the
tasks that we have to accomplish. What I have noticed over the decade I
have consulted on the side or as a day job, there are some obvious
things that start going wrong, so here are a couple of points to note
when it is rapidly getting time to fire the client.
1. They stop listening and they stop acting on the high priced advice you are giving them.
2. You can no longer reach management – they stop responding to
e-mail, or otherwise start to delay the conversation that needs to
3. You can no longer reach your team – the people you used to rely
on to accomplish a task stop being available to you for any number of
4. Meetings are difficult or impossible to schedule – no one shows up at meetings that are required for the work to continue.
5. Bills start being paid later and later as the work progresses –
never have more than a 30 day delay built into your consulting contract
– with failure to pay accruing interest and the ability to stop work
6. More and more odd ball hours – if calls and e-mails start
happening late at night (after 8PM) it is time to rethink what is going
on and start asking questions about the work, and what is happening in
7. The Organization starts to consume time that falls outside of
contract obligation hours – if you are finding that the client is
consuming off task off contract hours for other work – it is either
time to rewrite the contract to be compensated for the work you are
doing on other projects.
8. Change in organizational sponsorship or change in budget – which
reflects in hour’s works, type of work being done, or otherwise changes
the parameters of the contract.
9. Sudden and continuing hostility from members of the organization
– including members of the organization that are not directly related
to the contract.
10. Rumor Mill – what does the rumor mill say about the contract or
the work you are doing? If it is not positive start damage control or
work out what is going on.
When I fired my Client on Thursday night, it was because the last
meeting ended up being a screaming match where we were all telling each
other to “go F Yourself” which is not healthy. And while I might “never
work in this town again” it was the smartest move I have made to walk
away from the contract that still had a long time to run. There should
always be a cancellation clause in any contract you sign with anyone
when you are doing for any reason. Regardless of how you feel about
consulting, when the process devolves to a screaming match – it is also
time to walk away from the contract and go do something different.
There is no way anyone will make a difference if the client
relationship is hostile or not productive, or results in “too much
Tags: work, client, consulting, 10 reasons you know it is time to
fire your client, drama, work relationships, money, contract,
contracting, performance issues
(Cross-posted @ IT Toolbox)