Firing a client is a foreign concept to many - the theory being that any work/revenue is good. That is not always the case. While every effort should be made to salvage the relationship with your client, there are some situations where the management team may determine it is better to 'fire' the client than continue with the engagement:

Time spent far exceeds your revenue
Perhaps the deal wasn't structured correctly. Maybe you underestimated your time and resources or worse, maybe the client didn't tell you the whole story and the workload is far exceeding your original agreement.  Work with your client to make corrections through change requests to update your original statement of work (always document any changes!) - if that isn't successful, take a hard look at your costs and revenues. While there may be a strategic reason to continue the engagement even at a minimal loss, usually it does not make sense to lose a significant amount of money on a deal. In addition, you need to look at your opportunity cost - the time you are spending on your revenue-losing engagement means you have less time to spend on revenue-generating engagements and new business development efforts.

They are never satisfied
This luckily is not too common, but I have seen it happen more than once.  Regardless of the fact that you are meeting all your obligations, and perhaps even going above and beyond for your client, they are never satisfied with your efforts. It may be that the client didn't truly understand the product/service they were getting, there has been a change in management at the client and the 'new' person isn't as enthusiastic as the person who originally signed the contract, or it may just be a mismatch on both sides. Engage your account manager and senior management to work with the client and understand their issues - and work together to determine if you can win the client over.

Product/service is no longer part of your strategy
Perhaps your company has decided to drop a product line or service as part of your growth and long-term strategy.  As part of this decision, you will need to review which clients are currently using the product/service and when that piece of their contract is up. The best approach is to phase out the product/service gradually over time as contracts expire, but it is possible that in order to support your growth strategy it may be worth paying a penalty for ending your engagement early. Do this with great caution and always consider your overall relationship with the client, including how many other products they utilize and how long they have been a client. Once you have committed to ending a product line, be careful not to fall into the trap of selling it 'just one more time' or keeping the support 'for just this one client' - managing and supporting one-offs can be a very expensive endeavor.

Emotional drain on your staff
If a client is berating your team, it can really wear them down - and put your company at risk of losing good employees. There may just be a personality mismatch and putting a new team on the account can make a difference - not that the first team did anything wrong, just a better personality match (try to look for this when you're doing assignments in the first place). Your team will respect you if you stand up for them to a client who is 'bullying' and being unreasonable.

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive
project leadership.

I am honored this month to be a guest blogger for J. Edgar Group, offering part-time CFO services for companies at all phases of growth.  An excerpt is below, or read the full story here.

You don’t want your lawyer running your finances, and you don’t want
your accountant running your operations.  They are very different skillsets
and you need experts in each area.

There is a reason people become experts. They have a certain set of skills
and a passion for what they do. Their mind works in a certain way, which has led them to their chosen field because they found they were good at it and have
found great success.

When it comes to running a business you do not need to know everything, but
you need to rely on different experts at different times in your company’s

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions – a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive project leadership.

September/October is a particularly busy time for networking and events.
Many organizations run on a school year calendar, and there are often two or
three events to choose from on any given day.  As anyone who is running their own business knows, it is important to get out there and be very active at these kind of events - and that is what I strive to do.

September/October is also the season for high school field hockey - and that means I need to make choices.

My daughter is a senior this year and is playing on the varsity team. I made a commitment to myself to attend every game this season - that means I often miss events I really feel I should be attending but they conflict with the games.  My choices were validated when an event came up that I really wanted to attend - a potential client was speaking and I felt that I should be there. I thought to myself, perhaps I need to miss this one game and go to the event instead. But I held true to my commitment, and decided to miss the event and instead go to the field hockey game even though I felt a little guilty. 

It ended up being the best field hockey experience I think we have had to date. Not because they won or because it was a shutout, but because they are winning together and they are working as a team - and that is an amazing thing to witness. It was a very special night. The parents, the senior parents in particular, are sensing that we are near the end of this journey with our daughters and we are appreciating every one of these wonderful moments. I realized if I had gone to the event instead, I would have missed this entire experience and this wonderful evening in my daughter's life. 

Business is important. Family is more important. Our children grow up quicker than we think possible, and their time with us is fleeting. That game reminded me why I started my own business in the first place. I want to be there at 3 o'clock in the afternoon when that game starts. I might need to work late into the evening or get up at the crack of dawn to get something finished, but that is the choice that I make.

Whatever commitment you have made to yourself, in your personal or professional life, be sure that you hold yourself to it.  Don't compromise - make your choices and stick to them no matter what your inner critic or outside voices may be telling you.  To thine own self be true.

Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions - a Boston-based firm offering  part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments as a health check or as part of due diligence, and executive project leadership.