No Client is Better Than a Bad Client

The Surprising Choice for Business Health

By: Greg Modd

In the business world, it's often said that the customer is king. But what if the customer – or, in this case, the client – is more of a tyrant? It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, having no clients is better than having a bad client. Here's why.

Firstly, bad clients drain resources. The Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, applies well in this context. Bad clients often demand unreasonable amounts of time and attention, diverting valuable resources from other aspects of your business. Bad clients can lead to an imbalance in resource distribution, with the majority of your time, energy, and focus being dedicated to appeasing the demands of a difficult client instead of growing your business. I lost sleep and spent so many hours thinking about the bad client rather than being present with my wife and kids. 

Secondly, bad clients impact your team's morale. Handling a difficult client can be stressful, leading to decreased motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity among your staff. Constant criticism, unmet expectations, or poor communication from a bad client can create a toxic working environment that demotivates your team and potentially leads to high turnover rates. Has anyone calculated the cost of turnover recently? Especially in this current war on talent environment, we operate within. The bad client is NOT worth it, I promise. 

Thirdly, bad clients can damage your reputation. If a bad client feels dissatisfied and voices their displeasure publicly, it can deter potential clients and negatively affect your business. In today's digital age, a single negative review or complaint can significantly harm your online reputation. However, if you don't have haters are you even doing anything? Growing up, my Dad used to say, "Show me someone who isn't making mistakes. I'll show you someone who isn't doing anything." Also, when I was President of GAASHRM, I was told, "Greg, when you speak in front of a large crowd, it's natural for some to be upset by your words. If no one is upset, you're vanilla. You're unique. Keep crushing it!" 

So, why might it be better to have no clients at all? Without clients, you can invest time defining your ideal client profile, refining your marketing strategy, and improving your products or services. This allows you to attract the right kind of clients, those who understand and appreciate the value you provide. Patrick Lencioni wrote, "We've learned over the years that having a bad client is worse than having none." in Getting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty.

Moreover, having no clients allows you to invest in your team, focusing on team building, skills development, and increasing morale. A motivated, capable team is your best asset when the right clients come in.

Lastly, remember that saying no to a bad client doesn't mean saying no to all clients. It means making a strategic choice about where to invest your resources. You are making room for better, more profitable relationships that align with your business values and goals.

Clients are essential for business growth. Not all clients contribute positively. Recognizing when a client relationship becomes detrimental to your business's health is essential. Sometimes, it's better to have no clients and use that time to improve your business internally and strategically attract better clients than to struggle with a bad client. After all, the quality of your clients is more important than the quantity.