Breaking Up With Clients Doesn’t Have to be Scary
It’s renewal season in our firm. This is the time we assess our client list as to their right fit for our firm, and our right fit for them. We require all clients to sign a 12-month agreement with our firm, and the beginning of the calendar year is a time when most of our clients renew with our firm by signing another 12-month contract with us.
As we balance whether clients are right for our firm with how much they pay us every month, we inevitably come to realize that some clients are no longer right for our firm. Our next step is to break up with them. In this article, we’ll talk about how we do it and why it doesn’t have to be so scary.
The biggest reason we need to break up with our clients is because they are no longer a good fit for our firm. Most clients are enjoyable to serve (even if they are messy and unorganized), but can still be a wrong fit for the firm. A ‘right fit’ has more to do with your firm than the client. The old adage, “It’s me, not you,” is true in most cases. It’s actually a sign of health that a firm continues to improve and grow their services, processes, and team. As the firm’s value increases, the leadership of the firm has the responsibility to make sure all clients are still a right fit for the firm in the new place that it has grown to. It’s a tough, yet necessary call to move those wrong fit clients out of a firm that has continued to grow and increase its value. Yep, the sweet little old lady may have to go, too.
What are you getting by NOT breaking up with your clients? The conclusion to this question is the hardest one to answer because it’s hard to truly know the answer. Yet, it is one of the most important questions to figure out if you want to remain a healthy firm. It’s hard to see, but clients that are a wrong fit become anchors holding a firm in the past. Wrong fit clients not only hold back a firm, but the clients also don’t receive the service a growing firm is offering simply because they don’t want what the firm is becoming.
Anchor clients, for lack of a better term, are comfortable staying the same. And, that’s why they are wrong fit clients – because they don’t want to change, grow or be challenged. A firm that is growing and becoming healthier year after year has to shed the wrong fit clients, or else they will hold that firm in the past indefinitely. Your firm will struggle to grow if you fail to shed wrong fit clients. You are not getting healthy growth by letting anchor clients force you to stay the same.
What do you get when you do break up? As I like to say, for every ‘no’ you say, you get to say a ‘yes.’ That is, once you have demonstrated the courage to break up with a client, you get to say ‘yes’ to a whole new world that new clients will gladly let you lead them into. When you break up with old clients, you will experience many new benefits, including getting to price new clients in new ways, getting to implement a new efficient cloud software and getting to serve new clients in new ways. And, the clients you say ‘yes’ to will gladly go there with you!
Breaking up with a client doesn’t have to be scary. I take about five to seven minutes to call a client and let them know that we won’t be renewing with them for another year. And, I keep talking to say that we have grown as a firm and have discovered that our best clients typically let us handle most of the financial support for their company, and that we just can’t support clients that don’t need that level of care. I continue talking to say that if they’ll find a new accounting partner for the new year, we’ll be happy to help with the transition to make it as smooth as possible for them.
I say all of this in the first five to seven minutes before they get to say anything. That way, I’ve not given them an opportunity to disagree or ask if they can stay. We’re basically saying, “It’s us, not you.” After all, once our firm has decided not to serve a client anymore, the decision has been made. No additional information is needed (or desired) from the client in order to change our mind.
I hope this helps you make the strategic decision to break up with clients in ways that aren’t so scary!