Earlier this month, Americans celebrated the 240th anniversary of independence which, at its core, is really a celebration of freedom. As Americans, freedom is something we read about, write about, dream about, teach, advocate, protect, and hope for. To most reasonable people, freedom means more than just ‘free to do whatever I want’ – it means freedom to dictate our own lives and the freedom to choose thoughts that can liberate us from our own self-made limitations.
As a promotional products distributor – one who chooses the path of entrepreneurship – freedom can take on a slightly different meaning. When building a business such as a distributorship, there are many choices about operating systems, product search engines, order processing software, computer hardware, and even clients. It’s the last one, clients, that many distributors feel they have little to no freedom of choice. While the distributor/client relationship will always be fraught with a fair amount of friction as each side attempts to maximize value in the sales transaction, there is freedom in this partnership as well.
If you have operated your distributorship for any length of time, you have had at least a few bad clients. A bad client can cripple the growth of your company faster than just about anything else outside of internal culture. As such, it’s important to exercise your freedom to choose NOT to work with clients who become a drain on your time and your business. There are many different types of bad clients, each with specific undesirable traits – here are four of them:
Time Vampires – Time is the single most precious asset of any business owner and the financial success of your enterprise depends on using your time efficiently. Clients who change their minds time and time again after you’ve provided exactly what they asked for waste your time and make you less productive. No matter who you are, there are only 24 hours in a day – don’t squander them on clients who continually disrupt your workflow.
Idea Shoppers – Any “client” that takes your ideas and shops them around for a better price should be fired immediately. No matter how eloquently you share the value you provide, they will never buy from you without giving your competition an opportunity to undercut you. Your time, ideas, and creativity have value. If you are trying to sell to someone who can’t see that, it’s time to move on.
Angry Abusers – Uncommunicative, uncooperative, or just plain obnoxious clients will drain your energy faster than watching video on your iPhone. Whether their behavior manifests itself as passive-aggressiveness or outright verbal abuse, their negativity is contagious. Regardless of how much they may spend with you, this type of client will never be happy and is rarely worth the trouble.
Invoice Procrastinators – You have a business to run which requires a steady cash-flow. Clients who are habitually tardy when it comes to paying invoices disrupt your financial viability. More importantly, these types of clients don’t sufficiently appreciate the value you bring to their business. When clients fail to pay invoices on time, stand your ground – if you’ve delivered on your obligations, they need to meet theirs. Repeat offenders are clients you don’t want.
Each of us is fortunate to have the freedom to decide what we do with information, how we dictate our future, change our minds, make decisions, and, yes, even the clients we choose to work with. Summer is a great time to review your current client list and trim the troublemakers who are negatively impacting your bottom line. Doing so now will save you time, energy, and even money down the road.