The five worst clients for your professional services firm
Over my career I have learnt a few hard lessons and one of the most valuable is when to say no to a potential client, writes Fiona Hotston Moore, partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants.
Unfortunately, when you are starting out, in a recession, when you change firms or become a partner you are at your most vulnerable to the ‘preying’ client.
However, these clients can be the hardest to ditch and there tends to be a painful post mortem to the work. I would always say trust your instincts and if you have concerns about the client take a second opinion and be prepared to say no. So who are these ‘parasitic’ clients?
The expert is the client who makes it very clear from the initial call or meeting that they know it all. They are the expert in your field and they are seeking your services for convenience.
They will also make it clear that, as they already know it all, they expect a heavily discounted fee. Put simply they won’t value your expertise or experience. Once engaged they will lean on you at every opportunity.
The ‘wink wink, nudge nudge’ client
This is the client who is looking to bend every rule and will be seeking to push you beyond your professional boundaries. Beware however, if you make it clear where your boundaries lie they will instead try and hide their actions from you. Be careful you are not unwittingly caught out.
The serial litigant
This is the client who has a history of suing their advisers. Beware as they are typically the most charming client.
The rude client
Strong or difficult clients are fine. Difficult clients expect excellent service and will respect you making your views known and being prepared to stand up to them. Rude clients, however, should not be tolerated and particularly if they are rude to your team.
The ‘coming tomorrow’ client
These are the clients who don’t deliver on time. It will be evident from the start when they don’t return the signed engagement letter. They will then fail to send in crucial paperwork such that you will be working late nights and weekends to meet known deadlines and then – guess what – they won’t pay the fees when they are due.
Fortunately, the majority of clients are great clients and if treated well will be loyal clients and a pleasure to work for.