The biggest luxury of owning your own business is being able to choose whether or not to do business with particular customers or clients. While it is always tempting to want to chase down any revenue opportunity, crazy customers can suck up your time and, more importantly, your energy and truly dampen your spirits.
Michael Port talks about having a Red Velvet Rope Policy, which means that you treat your business and time like an exclusive club where you can select who gets past that rope. However, there may be someone standing behind the rope that looks great at first glance, but gives you pause for concern. It’s up to you to trust your gut and cut your losses as soon as possible.
My best example is a situation that I had last year (before I joined CNBC) where I was contributing on a number of networks. I talked to a potential client about selling her business. I didn’t have the bandwidth to work with her directly and exclusively, but offered to make an introduction to an associate who could handle the sale and said that I could stay involved at a high level if desired.
After an appearance of mine on CNN talking about second amendment rights, I received the following email from this potential client:
Subject: We agree to disagree (Carol’s note: non-accurate headline)
Email: Your comments tonight on CNN made me ill. We couldn’t be more far apart in our political beliefs (which is probably why I was a little worried about the amount of time you spend hanging out on Fox)
You take pretty radical stands on issues that go way past what I thought a business consultant would do. I couldn’t even imagine hiring you for a speaker, either, Carol. You are just completely wrong in my viewpoint, morally and ethically.
Please remove me from your call list and forget we ever spoke.
I was floored by this reaction, but more importantly I was RELIEVED. This was obviously a woman with very emotional reactions, exactly the kind of client that I have seen waste the time of advisors over and over again, and exactly the type to create extra work for an advisor. Further, emotional clients are also the type that go down the path and then, get cold feet and don’t pull the trigger (no pun intended!) on a sale transaction or fail to take action to implement big business shifts. This was the type of red flag that I look for in screening potential clients.
In receiving this email, there are many entrepreneurs that would have panicked about potentially losing a paying client opportunity and tried to win her back. I knew that I never wanted to do business with her (more than she didn’t want to do business with me), nor would I want any of my contacts to either. The red flag alert had gone off.
Instead, I explained my position* and wished her continuing success.
A client or customer relationship is a two-way street. While you work hard to land clients or customers, your time and effort is valuable, and having the right customers is critical to make sure that you maximize both. If the red flag goes up (or even just starts to rise), take heed, because wasting time on a crazy customer can keep you from servicing many amazing customers that will be happy, will be loyal, will tell other people about you and will make you enjoy being an entrepreneur.
*if you are interested in my response, here it is:
Hi [Name Redacted],
I will only respond this once and then per your request not reach out again.
I am a socially liberal fiscal conservative that does believe in the 2nd amendment rights, but has many liberal views (pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, etc.). I have many friends and clients who share different beliefs and I always listen to others, especially those with different objectives to refine my viewpoints.
I am not afraid to push the envelope and if having a strong stand isn’t something that works for you, I respect that. As a media figure, as an entrepreneur and a speaker, I am always willing to take a stand, even if unpopular. It works for many people I work with.
I wish you much success,