Bully clients

Most of us hate bullies. One day I might write about my school days if I can bear to think about it. At school we were largely trapped and felt there was little we could do about bullying.

In business we come across bullies too but we really do not have to put up with bad behaviour. I remember when I was an employee telephoning a client, someone quite famous, to tell him one of his companies owed a lot of tax because he had done something without asking us, his advisers, first. He shouted and raged and swore. I told him I would speak to him later when he felt better, and put the telephone down. Fortunately when I told my boss, he agreed I had done the right thing, so I had his full support. That guy had a poor track record for abusing our staff. My boss should have dumped him but probably the fees were too important to him and his fellow partners.

In my own business I do not put up with such people as clients. Usually on first meeting someone I get a feeling whether we can work together, but if later I do have any unanticipated “aggravation” I do not put up with it. I ask the client to go elsewhere.

No one should have to put up with bad language and bad behaviour from a client. You don’t, do you?

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.

Shooting the messenger

I had a client “sack” me last week. He did not have the grace to tell me in person. Actually he telephoned to check my email address, which he had used many times, and when I asked after him, he said that he had someone with him and could not talk. Two minutes later I had an email telling me my services were no longer required.

Having been in business for a fair time, I have quite a thick skin as far as rude and graceless behaviour is concerned. I did not know the client was unhappy with me, and I always courage feedback by talking. In this case, the client had got himself into a financial mess tax-wise, I was the one who told him he needed to find some money fast, and I assume he blamed me for this, rather than himself.

I would not be good at business if I did not try to make sure my clients are happy, but some will not talk back.

Have you been blamed by a customer for their own failures?

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.

Cheapskate prospects

Photoxpress_10909891 calculatorWell, a cheapskate is not really a prospect, as why would you take on a client who was not prepared to pay you a proper fee or have any respect for what you can do for them?

The other day I had a call from a guy who asked if my business was something I ran “on the side”. He meant, “Do you have a “real” job working for someone else, and are you just making extra pennies on your evenings and weekends?” In other words, was I going to be cheap?

I told him my business provided my living and my fees reflected the benefit he would get from my services. I did not bother with the list of costs we have such as insurance, software and training, and the value my expertise would bring him, because clearly that would have been a waste of time.

I wished him luck finding someone who would do the job at a very low cost, and bid him good day.

What would you have done?

No time-wasters?

Blog pix 21 March 11 001I do not like having my time wasted. However time-wasters are hard to avoid when they telephone to try to elicit free information or professional advice, even though they should know that free advice is not worth the paper it is written on, as Sam Goldwyn might have said, but didn’t.

I well understand the sentiment of wishing to avoid such people who just want to use us, but quite often I see small ads selling an item or a product, with that “No time-wasters” prominent in the entry.

It just gives a bad impression of a grumpy person or business owner. The average would-be purchaser would want to avoid dealing with an angry seller, and time-wasters would be too thick-skinned to care and would turn up anyway.

If you are selling a product or a service and are writing any sort of copy, you want it to be attractive and to sound inviting, and more genuine than someone else’s offering in the same market. That is why you need to explain what your offering will do to make the buyer feel better.

Comfort is what most people want. They do not wish to be scared away by someone’s list of qualifications which most of us have, because they think such a list sounds pompous and expensive. They do not wish to read about a business’s prestigious premises on the High Street because that sounds expensive as well.

Customers want to feel welcome and hope to get that nice warm feeling inside, and we all need to remember that when presenting ourselves and our businesses. Don’t you agree?

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Promoting your start-up business and attracting customers Part 2



Help your customers find your business

Help your customers find your business

The first press release

You need to make the announcement that you are open for business. Ideally you should get your press release out before you open your doors, but of course there is no reason why you should not send on out later or at any time. You do need to plan it carefully and write it in a way which will appeal to your target market.

  • Will your business appeal to a specialist market or to a wider audience? Plan to send your press release accordingly, whether to a niche magazine or to the local newspapers, or either or both.
  • Head it “Press Release”. State the obvious so that there is no mistake.
  • Space the text so that it is easily readable.
  • Have an eye-catching headline.
  • Don’t write too much. It is a bit like writing a blog post so try to confine yourself to 400 words or so, or even less.
  • Get all the important information in the first two or three sentences, and then expand on it in the rest of the piece. Remember a journalist may only use the first paragraph.
  • A press-release is not “one size fits all” so use the style of the publication you send it to. That may mean several re-writes if you are sending it out to different papers and magazines.
  • Quote yourself or a business partner or employee. e.g. “Jean (Smith) said: “I am really excited to be offering my interior design skills in the local area and sharing my life’s passion with the people of Townsville”.
  • Read your release carefully to make sure it really sounds interesting. Ask your friends if they think it is lively and engaging.
  • Check for spelling and grammar and ask someone else if you are not sure.
  • Make sure you know the copy deadlines of the publications you target and send in your article well in advance.
  • Do not forget to include your contact details at the end.
  • Find out who is the best person to whom you should send the press release.
  • If emailing a photo, check the required format though it may not matter too much. If posting, then check in advance on the form required.

You should now be all set to launch your business into the world.

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Losing an ungrateful customer

Dropping the Pilot (Sir John Tenniel)

Dropping the Pilot (Sir John Tenniel)

Usually we are not happy about losing a client. Sometimes it is our own decision of course when keeping them on is not cost-effective. They might be very demanding but will not reward us by agreeing a higher fee. It might be that we do not have a good relationship because we seem to have a clash of personalities. We are all human and have particular sensitivities. If I am no longer comfortable with a client I will gently suggest they find someone else.

Now and again, a client will drop us without telling us first. We may well have given them quite exceptional service (well, we should have done) and there is no explanation forthcoming. The first we hear of our lost relationship might be when we hear from our successor if we are told at all. I think that someone not telling us directly we are not required any more is very rude, especially when we have worked so hard to make sure we met their every requirement.

Of course we have to get over it even though we have “The quiet sense of something lost.” as Tennyson might have put it. If clients will not tell us why we are being dropped it might be because our replacement is a personal friend to whom they feel an obligation. It might be any sort of frivolous reason.

We just have to be dignified as Bismarck was portrayed in the famous Tenniel cartoon “The dropping of the pilot” and accept our fate. After all, we have other clients. We will get new ones too and there is no time to waste on regrets. We get over it.

Have you been shocked to be jilted by a customer for no reason you knew?

Adapt, change or your business will die

My Kindle

My Kindle

I have had my own business for nearly eleven years. It hardly seem possible. However, it is not the same business I started. In the beginning I hardly used email to correspond with clients. It wasn’t that I was an old dinosaur; I have been using email since around 1989. No, it is just that it was not what my clients expected back then. Many of them were not computer literate anyway. Some still are not, but we can cater for them.

Eleven years ago I would not send documents for approval by email either. That was largely because we did not have an easy format such as PDF which we have today. I used the telephone a lot more although it is still important to talk to clients, or rather, to listen.

We didn’t receive so much in the way of services through the Government Gateway on-line a decade back. All my clients were local. Now I have clients from the UK to New Zealand and from Honduras to South Africa.

All this is possible because the world has changed, and also necessary because there is less “local” business of the sort which is interesting or profitable. I have adapted and changed because if my business had stayed the same in terms of offerings, service and the way those services were delivered it would have been broke. Milkmen are a rarity because there is no demand. People buy their milk at the supermarket.

I hope I do not seem unkind, but this week I had one of those on-line petition emails from some booksellers who were petitioning for Amazon to pay more tax. Yet I am sure the reason for their knocking Amazon was because Amazon is eating into their business. I feel sorry for the booksellers, but we cannot run our businesses as museum pieces., because we will make no money.

Some booksellers have moved half their premises over to selling coffee to encourage the browsing client, something I first saw this approach in Dallas more than a dozen years ago. I am not sure if this still works, but surely it is the browsing public who would still buy books in bookshops, where they would choose a good read? If you know what book you want you buy it One-Click through Amazon, or it is delivered to your Kindle. You do not go to the High Street to see if the local shop might have it.

In business we cannot blame others if our sales are weak. We need to change or get out and start anew with something else. How have you changed your business to move with the times?

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Sometimes losing customers is not our fault

Unhappy passage?

We have all lost patrons of our business, or, if we have only just started, we will lose customers in the future.

When someone leaves us, it is always important to get feedback. Has something one wrong in our delivery? Do they think they can get a better service elsewhere? Is it a question of seeing price over value?  Do they just not have the need for us any more? We need to ask, because we can learn.

Sometimes we will have done nothing wrong that we can see. In fact we will have given the best service anyone could. We are dealing with people. All our customers are people. People are all different, and while we hope we can read them and understand them, now and again we will be taken by surprise. Clients just go.

I had a client I helped from the beginning with her start-up business. I sat with her and gave her all sorts of tips about being in business, what to aim for, managing her bank accounts, trying and testing her marketing and looking out for pitfalls and scammers.

Her business grew. It became successful and profitable. I spoke to her often. She called me for advice. I kept in touch. Yet one day I found out through a third party that she was leaving me, or at least taking her custom elsewhere

Within the last couple of months before hearing the bad news, I had spent an hour at her premises and had a long chat with her. Three weeks later I delivered personally some papers she needed. She was friendly and gave no clue our business relationship would be at an end. Yet a few weeks after that I found that she was going, and she didn’t even tell me herself.

I did ask why my business services were no longer required. My now ex-client said that a “friend” had recommended her to go elsewhere. That was it. No proper explanation.

We have to accept set-backs. I am sure our service was exemplary; indeed I know it was as it had my personal attention. We have to get over it and move on.

Accidents will happen. Have you lost a customer for no logical reason? Have you been taken by surprise like that?

Photo credit TheeErin Creative Commons license via Photo Pin



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Why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a colleague or prospect either

First impressions

First impressions are important. When meeting someone in business for the first time I am sure we all do our best to present ourselves well. That is simple commercial sense. Sometimes if we get a poorer impression of someone else when we meet them we do not pursue the relationship. If we instinctively feel like that then it may be best to let it go.

However, if we are not sure how we feel or we can’t immediately work out what makes another person tick, maybe we should give it a bit longer.

The Story of a Simple Soul

British author H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Tim...

H G Wells - Image via Wikipedia

This theme really does remind me of my attitude to a particular book when I was about fourteen. It was a set book for English literature and we spent ages dissecting it in class and being asked to analyse various parts of it for homework. I didn’t understand the value of that book during the Summer Term. It seemed very boring to have to take it to bits and write essays about it.

However, when school broke up we had one of those rather rainy changeable summers like several we have had recently in England. I was an avid reader of fiction (still am) and one day I had read all the books in the house and it was too wet to walk to the library a couple of miles away. I picked up the school set book and read it from the beginning to the end as one would normally read a book except at school. Do you know what? The book was brilliant and funny, and a really great read.

What was the book? Kipps (not an affiliate link) by H G Wells. It was the book upon which the musical “Half a Sixpence” was based. I really recommend it, but when I had approached it from the wrong angle I had thought I wouldn’t like it.

The wrong end of the stick

Several years ago I met someone who I thought was a bit of a “wide boy” which means someone a bit untrustworthy, doing dodgy deals. A ducker and diver as we say in in England. I used to see him rather a lot at various meetings but didn’t take him seriously.

Yet eventually I had to deal with this chap as we had joint responsibility via a committee for organising some events. I came to realise that he was hard working, capable, kind and generous. I would trust him to look after financial issues on my behalf, which means complete trust as far as I am concerned.

So my first impression was a little off target, wasn’t it?

Setting the filters

With prospects I cannot engage them as clients if I am not comfortable with them, which is why I always like to spend time with them; at least an hour or so. But if they mess me around in terms of our first appointment e.g. change it more than twice without a convincing reason, I assume they are time wasters or potential troublesome clients. I don’t take them on.

Just the same, it is mostly worth giving people a run to see how they are. Many might become very good clients or great business friends. Do you give people a good run for their money – or yours?


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Stupid inconsiderate people

You come across people who don’t think about their fellow human beings all the time. There are those who play loud music in their gardens on sunny Sunday afternoons when their neighbours want to have a peaceful time and read. There are those who park their cars on double bends.

Sometimes people expect others to be considerate but make no attempt to consider others. The other day there was a young woman riding a horse nearby. She had a jacket with, written on the back “Young Horse. Please pass wide and slow”. Motorists were doing their best to be careful. Horses still have rights on our roads. Yet why was she riding a young inexperienced horse on a busy main road at eight in the morning? In the rush hour? With a queue of traffic backing up more than half a mile?

How many people was this young woman making late for work? How many work hours would be lost?

So we pick up customers or clients like this whom we end up not liking:

  • Those who want a great deal but don’t want to pay.
  • Those who agree a fee for a service or product but then ask for a lot more for nothing.
  • Those who don’t pay us promptly, like the one who told me she had been too busy to pay me.
  • Those who give us abuse; the worst sin.

We have to accept that most difficult clients need not remain clients. We need to ask them to leave us for our own peace of mind, for the good of our cash flow and so that we can earn more money giving a good service to our customers who appreciate us.

Never be afraid to sack a client. We deserve to be appreciated, don’t you think?