A couple of weeks ago I saw an interview on a news channel with a client of one of my former employers, which was a very large firm. This ex-client of mine who I believe is also an ex-client of the firm I used to work for was one of the most difficult people I have known in my working career. There are always fireworks around this man because not only does he not suffer fools gladly; he doesn’t suffer anyone gladly.
The interviewer, whom I like, innocently asked about his subject’s company performance in the current economic conditions (which is good considering everything) and about big business directors’ salaries. I was waiting for the explosion and it duly came. I am afraid if anyone watching was waiting to be impressed by the response, she or he would have been severely disappointed. The journalist asking the questions was quite taken aback. Maybe he hadn’t been warned.
This ex-client of my former employer is not someone who follows Dale Carnegie. He gets his way by being a big bully and imposes a reign of terror wherever he goes. The sad thing is that it works for him and he is for that reason a bad-boy darling of the financial press.
When I had to deal with this guy I was an employee some way down the pecking order. When I was permitted to speak to him on the telephone he used to shout at me over any reasonable question I asked and would use a series of expletives. I put up with this because I had to, although one one occasion I did tell him I would speak to him when he was feeling better, and put the phone down.
Of course I and my peers took the flack as a cushion between the client and our principals, who of course only really saw the client on social occasions when he was obliged to try and be nice. Our bosses knew what we had to put up with, though.
When we start out in business on our own account it is tempting to take any work we can get, no matter from whom we are getting it. That might on occasion mean taking on as clients some people whom we find very unpleasant. That would be a mistake.
There is a great deal to think about in running a business and we need as little stress as possible both for our health and well-being and to allow us to think clearly. We don’t need to take on clients who are monsters and who will swear at us and be ungrateful when we are delivering the best service any business could offer.
Once I was cannon fodder for my employer. Acting for myself, I don’t need to be in a war at all and neither do you. That is no way to run a business, is it?