We have them. Every business no matter how big, no matter how small, regardless of industry, stage of business, or nature of the product or services has bad clients. These clients run the gamut from those who skip out on bills or pay with rubber checks to those who are higher maintenance than the fees and sales justify. Worse still are the clients who ask for advice but don’t heed the advice, yet still want to control the process.


One of my colleagues experienced just such a bad client, who was starting a new venture and wanted to fund it entirely with government funds: Federal, state, and local. However, was the company founder didn’t have the qualifications to oversee the type of projects that were being proposed. This meant that the company needed (based on terms of these types of government funding) to have an employee who was qualified and who wasn’t working full-time for another company. Furthermore, the company would also need funds that were not from another government entity AND facilities in place or that could be demonstrated would be in place if the grants were awarded.


The Issues

Not only did the company not have employees who could do the work, they also had no facilities. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. The founder of the company wanted to represent that they had facilities and had a number of other things, like lab facilities, equipment, and other funding. The reality was the “manufacturing” operations were little more than an old stove and some pots and pans. The product testing to date had been on friends and family members. Overall the “company” was simply a name, an address, and a dream.


Many companies if not all start with an idea and a dream in someone’s garage or kitchen or dorm room or research lab. That wasn’t the holdup. The true bottom-line issue was that the client wanted to make false statements and misrepresent what they had, had done and could do to the government in the grant proposal. No matter how anyone worked with the founder, no matter how many explanations of process and rules were made, the client refused to hear what was being said. To compound the issue, the client also didn’t have information on the concept to use in the proposal. Not to mention, the client wanted a project that would normally take 120 hours to be completed in 10 hours. The lack of understanding on how the process would take was particularly hard to deal with, as the client had attended individual private consulting sessions with accountants, lawyers and government officials on what the process was and what it required.


Crash and Refund

Ultimately the engagement to work with the client had to be terminated. There was no way to deliver a final product in the timeframe, with the lack of information and no cooperation from the client on working on the project. In fact in the final days of the project the client wanted written reports in addition to the work product (proposal). The reports would have entailed more time away from writing the proposal.


When the client is uncooperative, then it is time to part ways. Whether you need to give a partial or complete refund will depend upon the situation. But in the end severing ties with a bad client promptly and decisively will in the long run leave you more time to make money with good clients, and definitely reduce your stress.


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