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January 20, 2005

News & Opinion: Should You Fire a Client?

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:44 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

In the early 1900s, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, concluded that 20% of the people controlled 80% of the wealth. Since then, his now-famous 80:20 rule has been applied to everything from advertising and time management to identifying product defects.
One application of Paretos Principle is that 20% of your customers or clients will generate 80% of your headaches. It stands to reason that youll boost the vibrancy of your business by pruning that disruptive 20% every year or so. Few things damage the long-term health of a business more than client saboteursand there are more than a few out there.
Consider Firing a Client if
It takes days or weeks to get on your clients calendar.
Your client wants to approve or attend all your meetings with decision makers.
You have stopped developing new skills.
Invoices are nitpicked to death or payments are consistently late.
The client fails to review critical documents in a timely manner.
Your profit margin is eroding with no end in sight.
Your work no longer seems to have a substantive impact on the clients business.
It may sound crazy to fire your clients, but doing so is one of the best strategic actions you can take. Clients define the culture of your business, and serving tiresome ones erodes that culture and poisons the environment. Problem clients create more work and needless stress. They kill your profits and your productivity, and that negativity can seep into your personal life.
It takes courage to walk away from a paying client, no matter what the circumstances. But dont worry; if you excel at what you do, more desirable clients will find their way to your doorstep.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.