Dear Nick: I can't believe what a now ex-client has just said to me
Some clients will never be happy with your service. That’s why ‘agony uncle’ Nick Elston says accountants should set the terms of the relationship, not the clients.
Mental health speaker and coach Nick Elston offers advice to a practitioner who is letting off steam over a now ex-client.
Dear Nick: I need to let off steam, my blood is boiling right now and it isn't the heat. So brief history, a client is 12 months late supplying monthly bookkeeping two years running.
Last January I received paperwork going back to April prior when it should have been received each month. Notice client has gone over VAT threshold and advised what he needed to do and what would happen.
I get an email today to say they are going elsewhere because my advice has been poor! So they expected me to know when they hit the threshold without having the information as agreed each month. But somehow it's my fault for not advising them sooner?
People really do live in their own dream world. I just can't believe the cheek of it. Had they said thanks for the memories but it's time to part, I’d have said good luck and take care. But they made it their choice to state I was slow at advising them sooner and completely ignoring all the issues they caused which stopped me from advising them at the appropriate time. Grrrrrrr
There’s an old Polish proverb that I live by nowadays: “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” However, sometimes I favour the less grand mantra of a close friend of mine: “People are idiots.”
Either way, how other people act to us absolutely says everything about where they are right now and nothing about you.
Sometimes, in the name of business – or love, friendship, family or any other relationship – we feel we don’t have a choice. But we do have a choice. Sometimes, you need to cull – and keep people (and clients) in your lives that are good for you.
In my last ‘Dear Nick’ article I mentioned the need to sack your clients – to save you the time and hassle of dealing with clients who do not match your agenda, ethics or morality.
It must have caused you anxiety even before they submitted their stuff to you: the waiting, anticipating, frustration, and maybe passive aggression. I know I can get like that anyway with people and situations that I know aren’t ‘good’ for me.
In terms of where you are right now, the best you can do now is to let go of this. Learn and move on. You never know what they could be going through right now. We rarely see the truth behind people’s lives. It could be their defence mechanism as they know they screwed up.
Either way, forgiveness is the key to moving on. You don’t have to forgive them in person. Just say it over and over until you feel better about it, and evaluate all that you did to see if you can do anything different ongoing.
During my time in the hospitality sector of my career I learned early on that managing expectations was essential. Every customer had a different vision of what to expect, depending on their own personal outlook on life.
For every new client, why don’t you set the rules upfront? Tell them the way that YOU work and then tell them that if it doesn’t work that way then you wouldn’t be able to work together – but all done very nicely, of course.
When I get an enquiry in to speak, everyone gets a booking form to complete along with an invoice which clearly states my terms and that I am paid on booking. It doesn’t matter where they are in the world, what size organisation or event, or even if I know them personally. The reason is that I will be actively declining business on that date once agreed.
And importantly, I also say that if this isn’t a good fit for them then that is absolutely fine and we go our separate ways. The reason behind this?
If you are not telling your clients what your terms are, how do they know what or whose terms they are dealing with you on?
It’s better to find out immediately if someone isn’t a good fit for you – personally or professionally – than to find out after they have caused you all of this stress, anxiety, anger and upset. Move on, focus on the positive. Set your rules and go get them.
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Nick Elston is one of the leading inspirational speakers on the subjects of anxiety, mental health and wellbeing - from an experience sharing perspective - and delivers his talks to stages, corporates, boardrooms, factories, universities, schools and events worldwide. His coaching programme is called Life On Your Terms.