In your business, you get to choose who you work with.
Unfortunately, sometimes you will forget this.
In the beginning when you’re starting out, it’s tempting to work with anyone. It may be a bit of a hit or miss until you land on who your right people are, but over time you will definitely learn who you can get results for and who you can’t.
After that, you’ll need to stop accepting obviously wrong clients for you and referring them to someone who can (and wants to) help them. It can really sting knowing you are missing out on some money, but I promise you it’s worth it.
And then there are the times when people who you shouldn’t be working with will slip through.
I wanted to share the content from this post again because I think it’s an important reminder that you can – and should – fire clients if they are not a fit.
I am thinking about a video by Michael Bungay Stanier that had a question that’s stuck with me for the past 12 years. That question is: What will you say no to so you can say yes to something else?
Because there’s always a tradeoff.
In my case, I have made myself say no to two opportunities within 24 hours.
The first thing I said no to was a prospect who came by referral. I probably could have helped him, but I knew a coach who would be able to do a better job for him. She is in the same geographic location and has connections in his industry. The right thing to do was to refer him to her.
Then, there was a client in my job search coaching group who wasn’t showing up or doing the work. I told him he was wasting my time and his money, and then canceled his recurring payment that would have hit in two days.
Usually when I fire a client I get a burst of energy. I don’t feel that way today. I feel kind of sad about it, to be honest. I really thought I could help him get a good result.
Michael Port’s Red Velvet Rope Policy
I am a huge fan of NYT bestselling author Michael Port and his Book Yourself Solid system. (Fun fact: he wrote the foreword for Carol’s first book, The Entrepreneur Equation.) Below is an excerpt from an interview I did with him years ago.
Catherine: Michael, you talk about the value of having a Red Velvet Rope Policy (RVRP) in place. Can you share a little about what that is and why it is important?
Michael: I think it is so important that you only work with clients you love. I often say that Book Yourself Solid is a love story disguised as a business book. The RVRP is a way to ensure that you only work with people that you want to serve. People with whom you can do your best work.
Think about a red carpet event. They only let certain people through, and the people who do come through feel like VIPs. That’s how your clients should feel – like they are incredibly fortunate to be working with you.
Catherine: When you have lots of clients and a waiting list, it is easy to stick to your RVRP. But what about people who are new in their business? They need to get some money coming in. Do they need one, too?
Michael: Absolutely. I understand that when you are first starting out it is so tempting to work with anyone with a pulse and a checkbook. But I would have you consider the following: Clients who are not a good fit will suck your energy dry and will take up space in your calendar, leaving less room for the right clients. The right clients are the clients who will energize and inspire you. The clients who make work seem like fun.
It is counterintuitive, but I always encourage professionals to “dump the duds” (or better yet, not take them on in the first place), and create space for their ideal clients. The biggest constraint a service provider has is their time. There’s only so much time in a day.
I know from experience that when I stay true to my RVRP, as I did today, ideal clients tend to show up very quickly.
Nature abhors a vacuum.