Photo by Fancy Crave

Photo by Fancy Crave

In these blog posts, I often talk about the things I notice in life and business with the hope of pointing out lessons that readers can use to improve their companies. I hope that everyone can see that even after a long career filled with varied experiences, I have certainly not reached a point where I have stopped learning. Quite the contrary, I spend a lot of time focusing my attention on my own business to try to find and address inefficiencies.

With that in mind, I pulled out my mental calculator and did a few sobering tabulations pertaining to one particular client. First off, I want to point out that we have really enjoyed working the client, and that we have genuinely improved his business. The issue, however, is that in the end, a six-month engagement (that has felt a lot longer at times) has resulted in very little revenue.

The first big question is: What to do when you realize you have a one-sided relationship with a client?

You have put in too many hours, written too many emails, and really have just done too much work to justify the contract. The first instinct is probably to blame the client, which will not get you very far. Remember the initial meeting, the CDA, the proposal, and the agreement (that you signed)? The truth is that for whatever reason this advisory partnership is not working out when it comes to the bottom line. This leads us to the second big question.

Ask yourself: “Is this in the best interest of the business?” Probably not if you are losing money.

The key here is knowing that you have options, especially if you have two specific circumstances in place: if the client is highly satisfied with the work that you are doing, and if the engagement was put in place to serve as a foundation for further contracts. If either is true—and hopefully both are—then instead of stewing in silence it is probably time to have a conversation with the client. I have seen repeatedly that open communication can be highly effective in addressing issues large and small.

Talk to the client about satisfaction, scope, expectations, not in a complaining way but in a constructive solution-based manner. One thing I keep in mind is that in professional sports, if a player outperforms an ongoing contract, the franchise will often rip it up and write another commensurate with performance. That could be an option. Another might be to set the wheels in motion to sign a secondary deal to get further work initiated, keeping in mind that the terms need to be fair for both sides.

Sometimes there is no new or subsequent contract. Sometimes all you can do is to alter expectations. The bottom line is that in most cases a frank discussion will usually lead to at least an improvement if not a fix. Additionally, whatever frustration you have been carrying around will definitely be unloaded, which will free you up to put your mental energy someplace else.

At Sumus, we know that sometimes the plan goes awry, and normally, that is when the most profound learning takes place. Please contact us if you are experiencing a one-sided business relationship, or other challenges that you are having trouble dealing with on your own. We can help.

Jim Baker

Jim Baker

Sumus was founded by Jim Baker, an entrepreneur with 27 years’ experience bootstrapping and growing his business organically and through acquisition, to share his experience by providing advisory services around Board representation, Organization and Branding Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions, Value enhancement and Exit strategy.