Is “firing” a client like losing your wallet?

My child has lost a wallet containing all his worldly capital – about $30. After a laborious interrogation I helped him track it down to the last time he’d seen it. But the story does not have a happy ending.

He is under the impression that he left it in a jacket which he in turn left at the neighborhood ballpark. We tracked down the jacket in the lost-and-found, but it contained no wallet. (Interesting note of no relevance whatsoever: the lost and found actually contained TWO of his jackets.)

Having looked everywhere else we can think of I have reached the conclusion that it is likely that some child, finding this completely unidentified wallet containing actual money considered it a windfall – and promptly spent it all at the ballpark concession stand. Winner: the baseball program that has additional funds for its programming. Loser: my son.

So we had a brutal conversation in which I told him the wallet is likely gone, as is his money. We will not be replacing it for him. A hard lesson learned. 

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the fear and insecurity that can arise when it’s time to sever a client relationships. It can feel a bit like losing your wallet – one minute you have the money coming in and the next you don’t.  But experience has taught me that some of the fear and insecurity arises from the fact that many of us envision firing a client as a brutal conversation with no winners. Believe it or not, there are some win-win ways to end a business relationship:

  • Suggest another resource. Even if you’ve outgrown the business you can be utterly assured that there is someone out there for whom this business will be valued and perhaps life-changing. For them it is the “found wallet” and the path to unexpected candy. Find a resource and make an introduction to your client if you can.
  • Raise your prices. OK, maybe this doesn’t seem nice but let’s face it, we all have a monetary point at which it makes sense to keep the business. If there is more margin you can subcontract the work or hire someone else to service the account and still make money. And the client doesn’t lose a valuable resource, so it really can be a win-win.
  • Let the project come to its natural conclusion – and then say no to future projects. Easier said than done, I know. Which is why we will talk about saying no in a future post.

We are off to the ballpark again tonight (after a piano recital, a dance lesson and if we’re lucky, dinner) and I know I will find myself subconsciously looking around for that wallet. But really, it is time for us to move on.

Have you ever fired a client? Send your stories to – if I use them I’ll feature your business.