As a consultant, have you ever fired a client? If so, when?

J

JaneB

#1
I fired a client last week. This is something I find hard to do, and have done only on very rare occasions. (But I've got much better at vetting potential clients before I accept them.)

I had had misgivings for quite some time. IMO, the main weakness stemmed from where it usually does (at the very top). And that certainly wasn't going to change. So after working at it for a considerable period of time, and attempting a number of strategies, I realised I had neither confidence in nor respect for their top management, and thus I really didn't feel good about working with them. At which point I terminated the engagement.

Now obviously, I've spent some time thinking it over, including action/s to make such an engagement even less likely in future. But I'm interested in other points of view, to hear if/when other consultants have fired clients. I'm defining 'firing' here as choosing to terminate an engagement and voluntarily ceasing to work with a client.

Have you ever done so? If so, when? Do you find it easy or hard? What criteria did you apply? And how did you disengage?
 
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G

Gert Sorensen

#2
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

Never fired a client, no. But, from your description it looks like you did the right thing. :applause::applause::applause::applause::applause:

You go girl :D
 
D

David DeLong

#3
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

In my 20 years as a Quality Systems Consultant, I did not FIRE a client but I did refused to be associated with them. Maybe that could be considered the same.

In one case, I developed an ISO 9000 system and prior to their 3rd party audit, I reviewed their internal audit. I found that they had fudged a lot of data. I was to be onsite as an observer during the audit but declined. As a Consultant, my reputation is vital and never get involved in a company that fudges records.

In the second case, I was developing an QS9000 system and was just about completed but the system was stalled. I had a "job jar" where the company was to do some tasks prior to my returning but they were not being accomplished. I was getting a phone call the day prior to my visit to make sure that I brought my tennis equipment so we could play doubles and have supper together (I like tennis too) but no movement in the system. The final straw was when they hired a new Quality Manager who had never worked in the field before and he decided he knew more about quality than I did with over 30 years experience. I am outa there!!!
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
#4
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

I fired a client last week. This is something I find hard to do, and have done only on very rare occasions. (But I've got much better at vetting potential clients before I accept them.)

I had had misgivings for quite some time. IMO, the main weakness stemmed from where it usually does (at the very top). And that certainly wasn't going to change. So after working at it for a considerable period of time, and attempting a number of strategies, I realised I had neither confidence in nor respect for their top management, and thus I really didn't feel good about working with them. At which point I terminated the engagement.

Now obviously, I've spent some time thinking it over, including action/s to make such an engagement even less likely in future. But I'm interested in other points of view, to hear if/when other consultants have fired clients. I'm defining 'firing' here as choosing to terminate an engagement and voluntarily ceasing to work with a client.

Have you ever done so? If so, when? Do you find it easy or hard? What criteria did you apply? And how did you disengage?
I can deal with ignorance and low mental capacity, but catching the client (the top guy or his Board of Directors) lying to me about material facts calls for a very instantaneous "sit down" to clear the air. Only once (nearly thirty years ago in my investment banking days) has that not turned things back in the proper direction. We not only terminated that relationship, but we sued and won (in settlement) for the fee we would have earned in a successful IPO. In that case, there was a serious case of fraud in their plans, thwarted by our action. Being pragmatic, we did not have to mention the fraud conspiracy in our court pleading - the mere hint of publicity surrounding a court action was sufficient to prod them into settlement.

As you point out, each instance of a "breakdown" makes the consultant/advisor much smarter in Contract Review BEFORE getting caught in a bad situation. One of the great levelers is a VERY "up front" list of intolerable actions by either client or advisor, spelled out in terms of money forfeiture.

Side note - I expect lies from staff who are fearful of losing their "comfort zone." I see part of my task as being up front with the staff telling them frankly whether the job is on the line or not. Mostly - I try to make the comfort zone "future picture" a mutually desired goal and actually set up severance and relocation systems if divisions or departments will be closed. Truth eliminates lots of fear of the unknown and eliminates a lot of sabotage of the change initiative.

Everything a consultant does depends on an open and honest relationship with the top managers of the client.

Note this all applies to true consultants/advisors, not to "contract workers" or temporary workers who are merely there in place of a full time employee.

Contract workers are often employed by middle managers, not top managers. Contract workers are rarely change managers and rarely set their own agendas, often working under direction to someone else's plan.
 
J
#5
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

I'm not a consultant so I never "fired a client", but I'm sure most of us have all been in employment situations where we reached a point of having just having to move on. I know I have been.

It appears you did everything possible and then made the only honorable choice open to you. And you will be a better consultant for it.
You held your principles and good name at the expense of an unworthy client and that, my friend, is a good bargain.

James
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#7
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

Fire a client? Not that I can recall.

I did one time, while working for another CB, witness the Lead Auditor after a closing meeting ended real early tell the owner of a company to commit an un-natural REDACTED act with himself. That might be the same thing. (The lead auditor also owned the CB so he didn't get fired).
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
#8
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

Randy's story reminds me of the concept that since we (consultants, advisors, auditors, etc.) are only on site for a short time, we have the luxury of knowing we CAN leave and don't have to hang around and suffer repeated abuse from clients. Therefore, the most satisfying punishment for an advisor to give to an abuser is to simply walk away and let him abuse the empty space where you were. Especially at my age, I don't have to strut and pose as "macho man" and curse at a guy or offer to thrash him to get "one up." My latest tactic is to interrupt such an abuser (on the job or in a saloon) in mid tirade and say, "Gosh. I just don't have time to hear the end of this. Goodby."
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#9
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

Yeah, the Lead essentially said the CB didn't need the business. This was the audit where even though the recommendation was for certification the MR got fired at the closing meeting.
 
S

somerqc

#10
Re: As a consultant, do you ever fire a client? If so, when?

HOLY! And I thought I have worked for some rude, ignorant, pompous people in my past (early in my career when I had to take the abuse to get the experience). Although, for those people I might have said "thank you" if they did that.
 
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