Slideshow 9 types of clients to cut loose in 2016

Published
  • January 13 2016, 3:12am EST

No one wants another year full of Client A cursing at them throughout every meeting or Client B always asking for more, more, more — and then complaining once they get the bill. These are the clients, say Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, authors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People, who starve a business of the energy it needs to grow and prosper. It’s time to do some winter pruning, they say, and cut off those bad branches.

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The Abusers

These clients never have a kind word for you or your employees. In fact, interactions with them are usually peppered with demeaning language and expletives. It's one thing when they treat you poorly, but an abusive client being nasty to your staff is something you simply can't tolerate. Nothing can sink employee engagement and happiness faster than rude and abusive clients. “I find that a popular phrase with abusers is always 'or else,'" Houlihan says. "They yell at you or your employees, ‘You better do such and such or else!’ Know that you'll never be able to please them. There will always be an 'or else' looming. Know that at the end of the day, you're in control and you get to decide whether you're going to put up with them or not."

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The Pot Stirrers

These clients aren't team players, but they do infiltrate your team. Unfortunately, once they're working with you, they do nothing but stir up trouble. They say bad things about you to your employees and vice versa. "Clients might do this because they feel like it gives them an upper hand," notes Harvey. "If they can play everyone against each other, they think they may be able to work out a better deal or keep everyone scared enough that they'll do everything they ask. Pot stirrers are poison to a company. It's important that you nip this kind of behavior in the bud as soon as you realize its happening."

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The Unhappy Campers

Time and again, you deliver great work, but your unhappy campers always find something to complain about. They're never fully satisfied and their lack of gratitude has taken the wind out of you and your employees' sails more than once. "Unhappy campers may not be the worst clients on your list, but they can be exhausting," Houlihan says. "When you and your staff have put time and energy into a project and you're pleased with the results, your clients' appreciation means a lot. And it doesn't have to be a big show of gratitude. A simple 'thank you!' is all it takes. But unhappy campers can't be bothered. If they're not happy, you're not happy, and it's best to cut them loose while you still have energy to give to other clients."

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The Cheapskates

Any business owner knows that deciding on how to price your products or services is never an easy decision to make. Chances are, before presenting a client with a price list, you've already put a lot of time and thought into it, running the numbers to settle on a price that works for your business and potential customers. But cheapskates don't care about any of that. They're the clients who always ask for a discount or want to keep paying based on an outdated price list.

"Of course, it's OK to give clients a discount here and there," Harvey says. "But cheapskates have no problem bleeding you dry. And the worst cheapskates are also chronic late or non-payers. They never pay invoices on time, causing you to have to spend time tracking them down in order to get paid. Your energy is better spent elsewhere."

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The Know-It-Alls

These are the clients who make you wonder why they even hired you in the first place. They never want to take your advice, fight you at every turn and then change all the work you send their way. Even worse, when they do it their way and don't get the results they wanted, they find a reason to blame you or call you and need you to fix it under a ridiculous deadline. "When a client prevents you from doing what you do best, that's a big problem," Houlihan says. "It makes the work you do for them less satisfying, and worse, you run the risk of having your business's name attached to subpar work."

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The Sponges

Your sponge clients seem to think they're your only clients and use your time accordingly. They call constantly, send email after email, and request needless meetings or flake on important meetings and deadlines because they view their own schedules as much more important than yours. "You put much more into your interactions with sponges than you get back," Harvey says. "They eat up valuable time with unimportant tasks and worries that keep you from servicing other, more profitable clients."

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The Headache Inducers

These are the clients who hold up a hoop and expect you to jump through it. Then, they hold up an even smaller hoop and expect you to jump through it. And on and on. They specialize in making unreasonable demands and last-minute requests that put unreasonable stress on your company. "If anyone is going to give you a migraine, it's this type of client," notes Houlihan. "You might be able to rein them in by setting boundaries — for example, 'no changes can be made within 24 hours of a deadline' — but if they repeatedly breach those boundaries, it might be time to pass them on to your competition. You don't need the headache!"

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The Cowboys

Every interaction with these clients feels like a Wild West showdown at high noon, but instead of carrying a six shooter, their biggest threat is firing you. They constantly remind you how easily you could be replaced. "Unfortunately, the best way to handle cowboys is to be the first one to pull the trigger," Harvey says. "You might suggest that they'd be happier working with another company and help them take steps to make that transition. There's no joy in always being under the gun and you're never going to do your best work when you're being threatened with termination."

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The Two-Faced

With these clients, you never know what's up or down. They won't hesitate to lie to get what they want — or conveniently forget previously agreed-upon goals or deadlines. They're always changing the rules and moving the goalposts. You can never reach a satisfactory point with them because they're always changing their expectations. “That can cause a lot of unnecessary frustration and confusion. It becomes difficult for you to make the right decisions for them. You end up constantly second-guessing yourself or wondering when they're going to turn everything on its head,” Harvey says. “Don't waste your time. There are plenty of honest clients out there."

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