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Startup Secret 43: It's not you, it's me

Ignore your bookkeeper, if you must, and turn away the customers and clients who make your office unhappy.

"Fire your worst customers."

-- Name withheld

A PR friend of mine (the flack-writer relationship isn't always adversarial) who also started her own agency and thus has startup chops, told me how liberating it was to "resign" clients and partners with whom neither she, nor anyone else in her company, enjoyed working.

"It's not beneficial to either party, if you can't work together harmoniously," she said.

A bad working relationship doesn't build value for either side. It doesn't lead to reference relationships you can use in the future. It doesn't make for connections that will lead to more business. All you get from it is money. Very expensive money.

Her example involved a client for whom "everything was a crisis," and who didn't treat her agency "like a partner." That just wasn't how she was set up to work, and she had the self-awareness to realize that changing her work style to suit this customer wasn't a good tactic. Other agencies work differently, and she recommended that the client move to one of them.

I don't know how the "It's not you, it's me" discussion went over when she fired her client. However, she said the whole office is breathing easier now. While the revenue hit she took from losing the client was major, she said that servicing a client that didn't fit was extremely inefficient. Customers that want what you're selling (and how you're selling it) generate more revenue per unit of effort than those that are a mismatch.

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies, and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.