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Getting fired 101

If you have a “nightmare” client, one you just dread or find utterly toxic, that’s your fault. It should never get to that point, and it’s completely within your power to avoid it getting so bad.

Relationships between vendors and clients is like relationships between people: they are fraught with challenges, ups and downs, arguments and forgiveness. It’s impressive to see couples who have divorced but remain friends ongoing (even without kids in the picture) and simply agree that “it wasn’t a fit.” – Small businesses and IT professionals can learn from these couples.

How do you get properly fired by (or fire) a customer? Don’t think it’s within your control? If you’re not thinking about this, you might get fired!

You may choose to fire your IT person. Or IT people, you may elect to fire your customer.  Rule of thumb: getting fired should never, ever be a surprise. Because it won’t be a surprise, you’ll be able to offer the customer that you part ways just prior to them firing you.

Your work with your clients is like a marriage. There is an understanding of commitment, of roles and expectations, of trust and responsibilities, and of friendship. If your client suddenly asks you for all the passwords for their office, something is amiss in the relationship.

Just because you’re good with technology doesn’t mean you are a good listener. It is rare that customers fire their IT people because of their technical ability. It’s usually for one of these reasons

  • communication

  • time management (their time onsite)

  • punctuality (their time offsite)

  • expectation management

  • late or sloppy invoicing

  • attitude

  • defensiveness

  • arrogance

  • politics

It may be inevitable that you aren’t a fit for each other. But generally you can a) notice this in advance and b) take steps to prepare for it in such a way that when the time comes that you need to separate or discontinue the relationship that you can remain on excellent terms.

IT people – ask these phrases:

- “how are we doing? Are you pleased?”

- “is there any area we can improve?”

- “is our work living up to your expectations when we first met?”

Clients – ask your IT person these phrases:

- “is our account a fit for you based on your workload?”

- “honestly, are we a good client or a nightmare one for you?”

- “are we doing the right things or are we making it hard for you to do your work?”

Then sit back and listen to the answer. No interrupting or defending.

How you end the relationship can be equally important as how you begin. If you think the relationship is heading south, the steps you take next are key to a successful transition.


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