Naked CEO series: worst client reaffirms status

by oneafrikan on May 11, 2007

In all my time in this industry so far, specifically regards my time in London, I’ve not come accross anyone anywhere near like the client I had the displeasure of spending time with this evening.

A rough chain of events:

  • Client changed meeting location on the day
  • Client changed meeting time late morning / early afternoon
  • Client was 45 minutes late for meeting, having already ushered us into their offices himself (after opening the door for us, he proceeded to spend another 40 minutes on the phone, leaving us in the meeting room)
  • Client made no mentioned of keeping us waiting, no apology for delay, no thanks for time
  • Meeting ends at about 7:15pm
  • Result: miss gym (exercise and sauna) ‘cos got home to late; have to work later now to catch up time I lost earlier

Normally I’d not have a problem meeting with someone that late, but when you’re asked to make a meeting and then are forced to sit in the conference room for 45 minutes shooting the breeze with idle small talk, it gets frustrating, and you end up feeling it’s a waste of time. Not even saying thanks for cutting into your personal time is just plain rude, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

My general point of view is that business is a two way street. I need to make money, and you need a service of some sort. If we both work together, we both stand to benefit. But when you adopt the kind of attitude (and I’ve watered it down some) this client displays towards peoples time, which to me seemed totally disrespectful; add a dash of arrogance; a pinch of ignorance; and a sliver of bullying; you get one thing: WANKER, or more politely, an absolute bloody tosser.

I came away resolving to myself that if I ever in my travels through life encounter someone who even closely resembles the traits I’ve seen tonight, I’m going to say not to whatever it is we’re talking about, and run for the hills. No amount of money would make me work with this kind of person ever again. Luckily, I get to have a say in whom we work with, so that base is covered ;-)

I don’t want to come accross as a whiner, because generally I’ve got a long fuse and am pretty laid back, but just plain decency, and a little bit of consideration for people in general, goes a long way to making difficult situations easier. I expect that of myself, and generally expect that of others too ;-)

Anyways, it’s over now, and I’m hoping that that project will be over in a relatively short amount of time, so that I can put it to bed, and be stronger and wiser for the experience.

Would be really interested to hear your nightmare client stories? Better, worse, much worse?

10 comments

We have all had such experiences and it is important to let such clients be. The problem is that if you post negative stories you run a real risk of getting into trouble with no personal/bigger picture benefit.

My opinion is that you lower yourself to that of the client in question, so such annoyances are best discussed over a beer with a friend and left to rest. While frustrating, you need to ask what you personally gain by exposing peoples weaknesses in a negative way.

by Richard on May 11, 2007 at 8:39 am. Reply #

I feel your pain fella!

by U know who... on May 11, 2007 at 9:05 am. Reply #

Discontinue business with him. Not acceptable behaviour. You’ve got enough on your plate already.

by M J K on May 11, 2007 at 9:13 am. Reply #

I’d put him on notice and I’d fire them if this is a repeated pattern. (Keep an eye on your contractual obligation though.) It’s just disrespectful. Life is too short. Hope you billed them for **all** that wasted time.

by John Hornbaker on May 11, 2007 at 9:35 am. Reply #

I’ve been called an idiot for firing clients. I’d do it again, and I agree with you, it is a two way relation, that relation must be respected.

by lebogang nkoane on May 11, 2007 at 10:42 am. Reply #

Hi Gareth.

I love the post and although I partially agree with Richard, I also think you wrote your post in a way that was reflective and not a rant. Clearly your message to me was, how do I manage or avoid these situations.

As I know you, I also know you are a young leader and that is something Richard doesn’t realise. In your situation this site is one of the best ways for you to gather others wisdom as you are not part of a large organisation where older members are easily accessable for advice.

Now regarding handling the client I think most had good points. I have said in the past when we spoke if you do contract work (as you do) always bill for every hour. If the client leaves you sitting in the meeting room to chit-chat with your team your contract with them should say (for example) £100/hr per person.

If it is a new client you are trying to sign then there are a variety of strategies to manage them, one of them is to let the client know that you won’t just meet them at 3pm but that you will only have until 4pm(for example). This is really an over simplification to be honest, but controlling a situation is really important. You must find a path that allows you to control the situation and not(generally) offend the client.

About offending the client. I have done this two ways in the past. One I have told them their conduct was unethical and that I wouldn’t do business with them unless I was confident that this situation wasn’t representative of their general business behaviour. Two paths follow this usually. One is they are bastards and you never hear from them again so no big loss there because I have never had a bad client and made enough money to make it worth my while ever. Second they are good but feel you crossed the line so won’t call you back, but surprisingly there are often good clients that upon reflection (depends how you handled earlier situation) will call you up and apologise.

These last clients are the best. They are what you are looking for, they realise they have to treat you good to be treated good in return.

The other major offence I have committed I have decided I won’t mention but it wasn’t good and neither of us smiled after that. But really the point is you will piss some off and some will piss you off, its that you learn from it and try to not repeat mistakes you have made.

Above all I make this suggestion never ever make it personal. If you make the confrontation between you and the client personal the relationship will never cool over time. I have worked with clients that had a falling with me over big or small reasons after a month, 2 months, 1 year, etc. Fences mend, employees, move on, etc.

DON”T MAKE IT PERSONAL

Nice post big guy.

by Roger Kondrat on May 11, 2007 at 11:59 am. Reply #

Sir Rodger, you are making assumptions – I too know Gareth ;) But discussing who knows who is not the point of the post…

I agree don’t let it get personal, but more important dont take it personally – maybe there was genuinely something bigger out there. If you want to give them feedback, ensure that you approach it with a positive outcome in mind only – assume best intent – the need to be right is not a good leadership trait.

That said, I see nothing wrong with raising the wasted time/disrespect with a client. Something to consider (having been in the same position as Gareth) is that if you are not that important for the client, are they that important to you? It is a choice, if you have nothing better to do, sure chase the client, otherwise focus on something more productive. A failing I have seen made many times is running too hard after the wrong client.

by Richard on May 11, 2007 at 12:33 pm. Reply #

Richard,

If you are going to take the piss (and I am assuming in a nice way) the please spell my name correctly, I think its short enough that I can expect that from those that refer to me. : )))

Regarding my assumption that you don’t know Gareth, hardly was that worth pointing out as incorrect as clearly by the 5 paragraphs and oodles of writing afterwards that one single line was pretty irrelevant to the core of my comment.

PS it wasn’t so much a guess than an assumption since I couched into a context informing the reader why I made that guess.

Remember those best intentions Rich. : ))

by Roger Kondrat on May 11, 2007 at 12:55 pm. Reply #

Now now guys, lets keep things to the point ;-)

All I can say is that one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from my Mom, and it goes like this: “Always be the gentleman, in every situation”. And literally translated, having been in England for 5.5 years, it means always be the super cool, never fluffed, always happy, sipping tea, English gentleman.

I can say with honesty that I always try to maintain that (although my brother only knows how to push buttons that bring out the red mist) and it’s served me well.

In this situation, I did that, and will continue to do so with this client.
It’s gotten me far, and I feel it will get me further if I stick to it.

As for why I wrote the blog entry, it’s more cathartic than anything else. As far as I’m concerned I haven’t violated any confidentiality agreements, or mentioned anyone in particular that you could put a name and face to, but am aware that doing it after the fact may be better than now…

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Something funny – check out the Google Adwords adverts on this page ;-)

by Gareth Knight on May 14, 2007 at 3:27 pm. Reply #

Hey Gareth you gotta introduce me to Richard if we haven’t met, lately I have been so bored, and conversations have been so mundane that it was nice to debate over something that had some value to me and Richard did it with flare but wasn’t over the top about it so hats off to him.

At the end of the day it turns out we both know you and so that is just funny and silly in itself.

Look forward to meeting you Richard. Hey Gareth are you coming to Open Coffee this week? I am finally making the time.

Cheers
Rog

by Roger Kondrat on May 21, 2007 at 2:49 pm. Reply #

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