Clients to Avoid
Here are the red flags that we look for:
Why don't we work with some clients?
Charlie Munger is a pretty smart guy, if you don't know who he is - Charlie Munger is Warren Buffets' most trusted advisor. Safe to say; he's kinda smart.
He says that often the right answers and ideas are hard to come by when trying to get an ideal outcome, and ranking the ideas or solutions can be difficult. It's hard to predict the future success of a "Good idea". However, if you want to make things simpler and easier, think in terms of the opposite.
Instead of asking;
"How can I make my marriage last?"
"How could I ruin my marriage?"
Then do the opposite. In the spirit of Charlie Munger's advice we put together a list of 15 clients we could take on to Tank our Business. A client that would be considered too much work for our employees to manage, or has a high likelihood of dragging us down unprofitable rabbit holes. Some who just can't help themselves and thus we cannot hope to help them either. We have managed to identify these clear red flags, and we think it would be helpful for you to read this for the following reasons:
- You want to work with us, and want to know if we are a good fit
- You might want to make your own list of 'bad fit' clients that are pulling you down.
We call this "Aborting the Mission". We want to have a clear list of easily identifiable traits and behaviors of clients we want to avoid, and create a standard operating procedure around stopping the bus and aborting that mission for the greater good of the company.
Abort Mission if the Client Takes no Responsibility
We view client work as a partnership in their success. Too often we have seen clients that feel hiring a consultant to solve a problem means that they are not part of the problem. More often than not - if there is a problem in your business - YOU are at least part of the problem! Which means you hired us to fix:
- Your business as an extension of YOU,
- Your Process as an extension of YOU,
- Your people as an extension of YOU,
Long story short? You are crucial to the outcome and the problem. You need to be involved and provide feedback. We as consultants are there to solve a specific problem, we are not coaches that hide behind the accountability issue where you "Get what you put in" we are tied to the solution and the outcome which means we need to collaborate. This is also not only a problem for your integrator. (note -- your office admin or sales manager is NOT your integrator!) Also, the fact that your people are the problem doesn't mean that only your people need to solve the problem. When you do not get involved, and the outcome is not what you desired --- you will not be happy and we do not want a reputation of unhappy clients. Therefore we need to share the responsibility with you and work together to solve the problem.
Abort the Mission if the Client Underestimates the size of the Problem
When the client uses terms like "quick", "easy", "small" or "simple" to describe their project, they either:
- Don't understand the problem (more on this next) or,
- Are diminishing our value before we start, as a negotiation tactic.
Think about this in terms of a roofing quote. If a customer calls you and says;
"I have a small roof, 1600 square feet, 2 sides, 4/12 pitch 3 vents what's the price?"
They either have no idea that there is rotten plywood to deal with, not sure if maybe they should be upgrading to ridge vent, haven't looked to see if they have adequate insulation and didn't even bring up what kind of underlay to use or what type of shingles they want. They are also saying "it's small" because they are basically saying that this should be an easy one for you to do and therefore they just want the best price. You wouldn't want to work for that customer and neither do we. Always ask yourself if you are being the kind of client that YOU Would want to work with. Especially when hiring someone to be responsible for the outcomes that could dictate your future success.
Abort the mission if the client doesn't have a clear problem to solve.
If the client has difficulty articulating the problem, how will they know what it looks like when it is solved? We will probably have a hard time solving a problem that you the client do not understand, or can find a way to communicate clearly to us. Now that is certainly an opportunity for consulting - this is why we have process Audits - to help identify the problems and bottlenecks FIRST before we go solving the problem.
We want to make our lives easier, by sticking to problems that are clear and obvious so we can feel confident about solving them. If you need help finding the problem that is what a CRM Audit does. We do a 162 point checklist review of your process from Lead to Google Review and rate your CRM out of a possible score of 330. We time it to see how long it takes to process a unit of business, take note of double data entry that is unnecessary and context switching that creates room for error. We interview your staff with our Solution Extraction Survey (link) that helps identify the experience of processing business and rate the functioning speed of your office. From here we can interview you about your goals, and it becomes a lot easier to identify the problem CLEARLY. Once you understand the problem you will have a good indication of how to make your roofing company function the way you always felt it could or should. That's how we make the mission a GO!
Abort the Mission if everyone else they tried also Sucks
We get it, and we like flattery, but if we are the 3rd solution attempt and everyone else you tried has sucked - it might be you. That's not to say the roofing industry is full of savants and prophets that are always right. We know that is not the case, trust us - we know who's good and who isn't. We know many of our competitor's "good fit" clients and "Bad fit" clients and can pretty quickly sum up if you were a good fit for them.
How that transaction came to be, and what the terms were is a mystery. Just know that bashing the last guy isn't a way to our good graces. To be honest, it used to be. We used to thrive on the opportunity to make someone else look bad by solving a problem they couldn't. We used to let our egos get puffed up by being called in to clean up someone else's mess. However -- owning half a roofing company has taught me one thing. If I am coming in to fix two other roofers work -- it's probably how you were shopping that led you to calamity; not the roofer. The same is true in Consulting! Sooner or later if someone claims to only ever run into incompetent assholes, it's them who is the incompetent asshole.
That's not to say we don't like a challenge and a healthy conversation about what you have tried in the past, what worked and what didn't, and what you learned is great. If you have learned how you like to work with people and it aligns with how we like to serve people then the mission is an absolute GO. We will have a great partnership and build your roofing business very quickly. Similar to one of the previous points - take responsibility for the outcome. Every failure in your business is 100% on you unless you have a business partner who made the decision; then it is on you with who you are in business with and it's still at least a portion of your fault.
Abort the mission if the Client is in a Rush!
If you come to us with an urgent project it's usually a sign that you have dropped the ball somewhere else. That's okay we all make mistakes. We have made many of those same mistakes and we have also taken on clients who need to solve their problem now.
Any experienced consultant knows that when you get on the rush train, you're going to make stops at the Disorganization Station, Chaos Corner, and the Stress Transfer point. These are a few lovely places on the journey we have to look forward to if we hop on board.
The other important point to note is that a lack of planning on your behalf cannot constitute an emergency on ours, and the problem cannot and SHOULD not be solved instantly. Haste - makes waste. There needs to be a conversation on how we can create the time needed to create a well-thought-through solution that withstands stress tests and variables you have not considered. Every decision you make in business will have untold consequences. We had this happen once in my roofing company. We got over-concerned about replacement sales people selling repairs instead of replacements because it was easier, so we split the sales team up into teams that took repair and replacement leads as a specialty. On the face it seems smart, specializing right? What we learned is that GOOD marketing brings repair leads that shouldn't be repaired. When your car breaks or your air conditioner stops working you call the repair guy or bring it into the shop to be fixed. SOMETIMES, it can be repaired but sometimes a repair is a waste of money and a replacement is needed. Once a client is told that they need a new AC unit or the car isn't worth fixing at this point and it would be smarter to buy a new one -the customer then goes shopping for new things. So some "replacement" leads flow into competitors and it is your job in these examples to retain the customer after they begin shopping around.
When you're a hammer - everything looks like a nail. Likewise, if you are a repair sales person, every roof looks like a repairable roof. The result of this switch meant that we lost many replacement deals to repairs and every repair lead was only sold a repair. Revenue turned down sharply and we needed to correct it. This was a perfect example of making a rushed decision to solve a problem quickly.
Abort the Mission if the Scope keeps fluctuating!
Sometimes we take on a client and need to abort mission or at least have some tough conversations. We get it, the process of solutions consulting is exciting and opens your mind to new ideas.
It happens on almost every deal, you sit down after work with a leader in the company or show off the thing you have been working on and the next morning We get a message;
"So I was talking with Bob yesterday and we were thinking it would be cool if it did *insert brainfart here*"
Let me stop you right there, once the scope has been settled consider it written in stone. Fresh ideas are awesome but they require the same thought and consideration that went into the original scope. This will result in a new plan, new scope, and new challenges. We have tried avoiding the conversation before, we too have become excited by your ideas and never want to deliver something that now seems boring in comparison to your idea. Never Works!
Once we finish the thing we are on, let's see if the new idea makes sense. Remember you are only excited about Idea #2 because we codified solution #1 to problem #1, with idea #1. You only have idea #2 as a result of understanding idea #1. You don't start willy nilly assign a roofing crew to start ripping off siding because the customer got excited about doing an exterior remodel after ripping the bandaid off spending some money to replace the roof.
Abort the mission if you don't know all the stakeholders!
When we are "outside the circle" so to speak? This is a recipe for frustration and missed expectations. Similar to booking a 'single leg; roof sale appointment; when we are not included in the conversation with key stakeholders we cannot trust that milestones and action items are being effectively communicated.
The Mystery Stakeholder problem looks like this;
"Wow this playbook looks awesome, love it! Just have to run it past the Production manager to see if he likes it."
When we hear this we get a pit in our stomach because we have no idea what the real stakeholder is thinking, only the feedback we get from the telephone game.
Abort the Mission if it's unaffordable to the Client!
"This is a really big commitment for us, and. the whole family is counting on this to work. Please provide me with daily reports of your activities and kpi's. We really need this to be a top priority for your organization. We need. to see results right away. Can I have your wife's cellphone just in case I need to get ahold of you?"
We get it, you are running a business an do not want to waste money, that is typical of a savvy well-intended entrepreneur. We have just found that when we are employing $80-$120 per hour skilled labour that we are able to solve really complicated problems. The kinds of problems that persist in companies long after all the level 1 and 2 problems are resolved.
Our "Ideal Client" or "Buyer Persona" is the client who has been making a net profit for some time, and the marginal utility of money is having a diminishing rate of return on happiness. Meaning that buying a Quad, or a Boat, or another house is not really making them any happier or more content as the owner or CEO of their company. They have money to spend and if they could "just get their business to run the way they always knew it could" they would be so much happier than if they had another thing. These are the kind of complex, challenging issues that we have found a home in solving. We like the insidious unsolvable problems that you throw money, people, and checklists at only to end up with more problems costs. You measure the results of solving those problems in time saved, errors avoided, and revenue per capita. THAT is our SWEET SPOT.
That is not us saying we want to waste time or money, or not deliver a return on our clients investments. We are just saying that we might take quarters to solve problems that help you for years or even decades. The kind of solutions that create liquidity if you want to sell your roofing business by adding enterprise value, or develop the systems needed to finally make good on your succession or exit plan.
We are not your "First money" people, we are your "Last money" people. We want to be the last consultant you hire in your business.
What does this mean?
Well if you read this whole post and found yourself saying "Yeah I avoid those clients too" and "oh man that is so me!" then this copy was written for you. We are trying to find you! The result is that you would either make a great addition to our team and you should reach out to Allison looking for a job, OR you are our ideal client and you should book a discovery call with us right away!