“Meh” Clients & Business Purgatory

“Meh” Clients & Business Purgatory

One of my coaching clients asked, “What do we do with ‘meh’ clients? Clients who aren’t horrible but yet are definitely not ideal either. What then?”

Key topics:

✔️ It’s easy to make a decision with people on either side of the spectrum: amazing, wonderful clients you want more of and awful, rude dumpster fires who need to gooooo. It’s more difficult in the gray areas.
✔️ It’s important to consider what you are willing to deal with. Firstly, assess the money. Is this “meh” client paying you well, on time, and in full? If not, that massively tips the scales in a negative direction. From there, you have to decide if it’s worth the physical, mental, and emotional effort involved to deal with that person.
✔️ Trying to either change or guilt trip a selfish jerk is a fool’s errand. And sadly, you will bump into selfish jerks from time to time in the business world. Sometimes dealing with them is worth the money and other times it is not.
✔️ Getting involved in a confrontation is generally NOT the way to go. Some people are unhappy and they are spoiling for a fight. They want nothing more than to pull you into unnecessary drama. You don’t have to take the bait!
✔️ As Bob Proctor says: you need to be the star of your own show. This is your life and your business. Not someone else’s. Don’t place your happiness and well-being in someone else’s hands.

Special intro music: “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel.

Link to article I discuss: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ambigamy/201905/nine-tips-when-youre-tempted-tell-someone

Need more? Email me: https://causeyconsultingllc.com/contact-causey/


Transcription by Otter.ai.  Please forgive any typos!

Welcome to the Causey Consulting podcast. You can find us online anytime at CauseyConsultingLLC.com. And now, here’s your host, Sara Causey. Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in, playing you in with a little special Intro Music by Stealers Wheel stuck in the iddle with you. Fun random rivia fact. Gerry Rafferty was n that band, and he would later o on to have solo hits like aker Street and right down the ine. So if you’re ever in a rivia contest, and that uestion comes up, you’ll know he answer. Anyway, that song as in my head because one of my oaching clients asked me the uestion, what do we do with en, clients, clients who are ot horrible, they’re not bsolute nightmares that we need o fire immediately. But they’re lso not ideal clients, either. e don’t necessarily enjoy nteracting with them. And hey’re not clients that we ould want to replicate in the usiness. What then, and I hought, that’s a great topic or a podcast episode, because t’s easy when people are on a lear, extreme. So if it is omeone that’s horrendous, hey’re rude, abusive, and just bsolutely awful to deal with. hat’s an easy judgment call, igure out a way to part ways ith them, get them out of your ractice, go on with your life. nd likewise, on the other end f the spectrum, if they are an deal client, they’re respectful nd polite, they treat you with ignity, they treat you as the xpert and the authority figure nd you’re able to work with hem in exactly the way that you ant to work. It’s easy to say es, universe, more of this, lease, this is exactly the type f client that I want to have ore of in my business, uplicate, replicate this, lease. In the middle, though, e start to get into that gray rea of air, it is more ifficult to determine what we hould do. I personally refer to hose clients as purgatory lients, because that’s how it eels they’re not heaven. But hey’re not hell, either. hey’re just purgatory. And I ound that we have the tendency o attract in purgatory clients, hen we are in some type of imbo, or some type of ncertainty ourselves. So what re some examples of that? One hing could be, let’s say that ou’re working on a project. And ou can just tell you’re looking t the KPIs, you’re looking at he progress of it. And you can ell this project has maybe 30 o 60 days before it’s ompleted. They haven’t said nything about giving me more ork. So probably need to go head and line something else up o that I won’t be out of work or any length of time, or I’ve aken on a client, but they’re laky. Communication is poradic, I don’t get a lot of etails. And I don’t know from ne week or one month to the ext, if they’re even going to ant me to work for them, it eels very unstable. So I need o go ahead and Buck up and be a esponsible adult and go find ome clientele that has more tability. And just to be clear, here’s nothing wrong with being inancially conservative, and ehaving as a responsible adult, hinking about the future really lanning your business and your ash flow out with forethought. ‘m not ragging on that hatsoever. And I’ve talked efore about doing what the risis demands. There are, there ill be those times in our life hen we get hit with an nforeseen bill. There’s some xpense that happens out of owhere. And we have to just tep up and say, I may not only e dealing with ideal heavenly lients right now, but I’m just oing to have to step up and do hat the crisis demands. In rder to get through this inancial pinch. With purgatory lients, it really tends to be ore of a perceptual thing. So t’s not really that we’ve been it with an unforeseen bill. We ave some financial trauma that as befallen us, we’re just kind f scared that something bad ight happen. It’s almost like his spooky ghost that’s in the orner, but not really like e’re scared that the boogeyman s going to jump out of the loset and get us if we don’t eep our dance card as full as ossible. For whatever reason hat seems to be right breeding round for getting in May, urgatory clients. In this pisode, I’ll just call my oaching client, Jane Doe. The irst thing that I asked Jane is kay, when we’re talking about hese met clients, have you set n hourly rate or have you bid he project at a wage that you eel like is good money? Yes. kay. Are these clients paying ou in full and on time? Every ime? Yes, they are. They’ve ever paid late, and they’ve ever Made a partial payment, here’s been no haggling, the oney is good. It’s just in ther ways having to deal with he people is May and less than deal. And I feel like if I were o have all of these many lients and no real ideal lients, no awesome sauce lients, I would slowly go out f my mind, I feel like it would ake the wind out of my sails. nd I would start to feel mad bout my own business instead of eeling excited and happy about y business. So I’m not really ure exactly what to do with all hese people that are in the iddle. The reason why I asked ane about the money first is ecause that is an area that can ip the scales. That is an area hat can really bring clarity round. Is this just a math lient that you can tolerate for while? Or do they need to be ooted out? We are in business o make money. Don’t let anybody lse tell you otherwise. Okay, f you’re tuning in to my odcast, especially if you’re uning in on a regular basis. nd I want to stop for a second, ust say Hello, and thank you to he regular listeners. You guys re awesome. Thank you for uning in. I appreciate it. So f you’re a regular tuner, you lready know that I’m money otivated, and I really dispel he myths around making money. oney is a bad thing. People hat have money are bad. If you ove money, that’s evil. No, no, o, no. You can go anywhere else n the internet and listen to he fake goody two shoes tell ou only show up to serve ervant leadership on steroids. on’t try to close anybody never sked for the sale just kind of et it happen and hope the niverse will do it for you. No, o, no, no, no. So if you addled up with a client that ou’re kind of about, and hey’re not paying you maybe you nderbid, maybe they’re trying o haggle with you. They’re not aying at all they pay late, hey want to have partial ayments, that think of it as a cale. That is that’s like omebody putting their thumb on he scale to tip it in the irection of No, this is this is one from being a purgatory lient to being a hill client, ou want to make sure that eople are paying you on time nd in full. That just needs to e a number one non negotiable ule of the road for your usiness. So next, I asked Jane, et into more specifics. What is t that makes this client Mac lient? What What’s going on? hat are they doing or not doing hat’s making the difference etween them being an ideal wesome client versus them being Mac client that really you on’t feel very good about? She aid, Well, it’s not that hey’re unreasonable. And it’s ot that they’re constantly sking for unlimited revisions n my work. It’s more that the erson I interact with the most lways wants to have the last ord and he just has this ttitude that he has to fault ind he has to make some little nide comment, every time we ave an interaction, he can’t ust take the deliverable and ay, this looks great, thank ou, he always has to make some ittle jab at me, instead of ust being polite and going on nd, and I’ve tried to overlook t. I’ve tried to ignore it, but t’s really starting to stick in y craw. I don’t like the fact hat this guy always has to make ome kind of little snark every ime we interact. One thing I ant to say here is the ego is lways going to pop up. Whenever e feel like our feathers have een ruffled. It’s the egos job o protect us. And so when we re in an interaction with omeone like that, that we feel ike is being unnecessarily narky. A right fighter always ants to have the last word, our wn ego is going to step up and o, Hey, dude, I turned in a eliverable that I felt like was plus top notch work, you eally don’t have any right to e snarky about it. Go Go take our complaint somewhere else, ude. That’s our own ego that’s oing to flare up. So we need to cknowledge it and understand hat that’s part of what’s appening. One of my teachers lways encourages me to ask uestions like, does this even atter? Is this even ignificant? Does it affect my ottom line at all? A month from ow? Am I even gonna remember his interaction? Does this even atter? Now, we don’t want to ush off to try to invalidate ur feelings. That’s not at all hat I’m saying. I’m a big eliever in feeling what you eed to feel so that you can ove on from something like in ane’s case, I really think it’s reat that she is identifying, ou know, it ruffles my eathers. I don’t like it. I on’t like the fact that this uy feels the need to say omething snarky and snooty. very time we have an nteraction. I’m proud of her or acknowledging that that’s omething that’s coming up for er because as GI Joe always aid, knowing is half the attle. Some people are not so ware enough to realize that hat’s how they’re feeling that hat’s their interaction, or hat’s their reaction to the nteraction that’s going on. ome people will just say, hey, hat guy’s in a hole, and he eeds a knuckle sandwich. I ean, he probably is in a hole hat needs a knuckle sandwich. et’s be, let’s be honest about t. But I’m proud of Jane for eing able to say, I don’t I on’t like this. It’s making me eel bad. Not that this guy is he jerk, but just, hey, this is n interaction I don’t like. And t’s not something that I want o have more of in my business. here will be times in life, here when we ask ourselves the uestion, does this even matter? s this even significant? We ill come to the decision that es, it does matter. I don’t ppreciate the way that I’m eing spoken to, or this nteraction dealing with this lient is not worth the money. ou know, I’m trading time I’m rading energy. I’m trading eadspace. I am trading aspects f my life in order to get to his money. And the trade that ‘m making in the way that I’m, ‘m feeling my energy level, my nthusiasm is just simply not orth the money that I’m getting rom this client. The trade is nbalanced. And I just don’t eel like it makes sense to ontinue on. And I think that ou need to honor that. Not all oney is good money. And we want o be careful of getting into his mentality of anybody that’s illing to talk to me as a good rospect. Anybody that’s willing o sign a scope of work and hire e as a pm is a good client. No, ot necessarily. And it’s nfortunate, but some people ill be awesome. During the ntake process, they will say nd do all the right things. hey’ll agree to anything that ou say. But then when you eally begin interacting with hem day to day in your usiness, or you start to turn n deliverables, you find Oh, we ctually are not compatible, hey said and did all the right hings during the intake rocess. But now that we’re in he thick of it, I think this is aybe not going to be a great ong term fit. For those met urgatory clients. One of the hings that we have to contend ith or decide whether we want o contend with it is how we’re oing to manage those people in ur process. It’s easy sometimes or freelancers, small business wners solopreneurs, to still et put the client in a power osition, and they’re not you eed to always remember this is our life. This is your usiness. This is your ivelihood. Ultimately, you need o be in the driver’s seat of eciding what you will and will ot put up with. Nobody else eally needs to assume that role or you. I love how Bob Proctor ays you need to be in the tarring role of your own life. f you imagine your life as a ovie, you need to be the star f the show. You don’t need to it back and outsource that to omeone else. Well, you get to lay Best Supporting Actor or est Supporting Actress, you eed to be the star, you need to ave top billing in your own ovie. If we arrive at the onclusion that this myth client s not so bad, and the money is ood, we can put up with it. t’s maybe not an experience we are to have. Again, once the ontract runs out, we’re not oing to re up it, but we can eal with it for now. Then we ave to start thinking about hat maneuvers we’re going to ake. And I know that some eople think that sounds anipulative, I don’t mean for t to I really just mean it in he sense of how am I going to est handle the situation so hat I can do the best work ossible under the ircumstances? How am I going to nsure that I stay in the river’s seat, and the eliverable is good. I know that y work is high quality. But I’m ot accepting Bs and nonsense rom this purgatory client. How m I going to move the chess ieces around to make sure that his happens? There’s an article hat I want to utilize in this pisode from psychology today. nd it’s titled nine tips for hen you’re tempted to tell omeone off, and the byline is he subtle art of letting on hat you’re on to them. And the uthor is Jeremy Sherman, I will rop a link to this absolutely n the write up for this pisode. I would add that it’s robably not the best to let omebody know that you’re on to hem or that you you are just rying to survive this may xperience until the contract uns out or until you finish the roject or until you just get ired of dealing with them and ou get a better opportunity omewhere else. I don’t think t’s good to pull the curtain ack that far. But you do want o have a backbone and you want o make sure that you are taking are of yourself in the ituation. So the first tip that e gives is passive ggressiveness is only bad when t’s unwarranted. Passive ggressiveness is underrated. ts literal meaning is fighting assively, not actively. as uch. It’s in distinguishable rom passive resistance. He goes n to say passive aggressiveness ets its bad reputation from eing indulged in theatrically. nd I think it’s interesting hat he draws that analogy ecause there are times in life, hen we’re not going to be able o just come right out and irectly say, hey, like, like, kay, so in Jane’s situation, reat example, if she gets on he phone or gets on an email ith that client and says, you now, I’ve noticed that every ime I turn in a deliverable, ou have something snarky to say bout it. And I really do not ppreciate the way that you’re peaking to me, I would highly oubt that his fragile ego is oing to be able to take that, nd in fact, he might be poiling for a fight. There are ome people out there that are ooking to get into it with nybody, anywhere, at any time, ou may have heard me talk about y best friend, Johnny. I love hat man more than anything. And e will tell you, just like I ill say that in his younger ears, he was a rounder, he iked to fight he liked to crap. And if somebody didn’t ee it his way, he didn’t think wice about punching him in the ose. That’s just how he was. I hink the only reason that he idn’t wind up in the enitentiary is because he was ery good looking and smooth alking. So he was usually able o sort of weasel his way out of etting prosecuted for these arious little street fights hat he would get into. But here are times in life when ou’re going to run up against omebody that wants to fight. nd if you if you give them an pen door to having a fistfight, nd emotional war of words, hatever, they are going to take t because they’re spoiling for t. So while I typically do not dvocate for passive aggressive ehavior, I’ve said before, I ould much rather be stabbed in he chest and stabbed in the ack. There are times in usiness where it’s just not oing to be in your best nterest to come right out and ay, Hey, I really do not ppreciate the way that you’re peaking to me right now, you ay have to go about it in a ore subtle and artful way. The econd tip is, humor or confront ither way, you’re showing both espect and disrespect. He goes n to say, Don’t insult people. ut when you’re at odds with hem, you can’t help it. If you umor them, you’re insulting heir intelligence by assuming hey can’t handle your opinion. f instead you share your pinion, you honor them by hinking that they can handle an pinion that sense is at odds ith them, they can find nsulting. Again, I think use our own best judgment on this. here will be times when you are oing to have to humor someone long. That may be an unpopular pinion. But I’m here to tell ou the truth. And I’m here to elp you make your life and your usiness run easier. There will e people who cannot handle the ull Monty, they cannot handle he full truth. And so you’re oing to have to really figure ut what exactly can I say and n what way can I say it so that can make it through this Mac lient experience without urning a bridge? Use your own est judgment on that. The fourth point on the list is one that I really want to highlight. Don’t try to convince them that they’re total jerks, trying to persuade the resolutely unpersuaded. VUL is one of those ironic moves, like giving reasons to someone resolutely unreasonable, telling someone who is resolutely not listening, that they’re not listening or trying to convince someone who resolutely doesn’t believe you to believe you. Because really, they should believe you. A total jerk as distinct from the occasional jerks that we all are, is dead set against receptivity, you can taunt them, you can get them to be a total jerk to someone else. You can expose them to onlookers, but you cannot persuade them to be receptive. Yes. And that is one of the reasons why I wanted to highlight this article in this episode. Some people are very well aware that they’re jerks. You know, the people that are spoiling for a good fight that really want to get into a scrap with you. If you tell them that they’re being a jerk. Wha they’re gonna love the opportunity to show you full jerk wad mode. Do you really want to spend your time and your life and your business dealing with somebody like that? I know that I wouldn’t. Number five on the list is moral shaming is futile. You can’t shame the shameless. You can’t evoke guilt and a total jerk by pointing out that they’re unethical. And I’m also glad that he made that point because sometimes people will try to use the guilt trip. You’re really tried hard on this project. I believe that I gave you a deliverable that’s outstanding. And what I’m getting from you is that you don’t think it’s outstanding. And I’d really like to know where you think that I missed the mark. I’d really like to know why you never seem to be quite satisfied. Ma ba. You know, that’s like playing the martyr. And if the person is a jerk, and they really don’t give a damn about you Then they’re not going to care about you trying to put a guilt trip on them over something in the business world. In that respect, I think we do have to go back to the Godfather. It’s not personal, it’s just business. People are not going to care about you getting your feelings hurt if they feel like you turned in something that wasn’t up to par, even if God Almighty couldn’t have satisfied them, they’re not going to care about you trying to lay a guilt trip on them. The author mentioned something in his PostScript that I want to read to you. We make the distinction between psychopaths who are congenitally shameless and sociopaths who are socially encouraged to shamelessness. There are also perhaps econo paths, paid professional psychopaths incentivized to be total jerks by the profit they make at it. You know, I’ve heard it said before that a lot of people in sales and a lot of people in executive suites, a lot of CEOs are if not full on psychopaths, they have some been towards psychopathy. Now, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. And I’m not gonna sit here and say every CEO, every high profile executive is a sociopath or psychopath. I think it just tends to be one of those things like it is a profession that draws in people with some degree of psychopathy, sales is very much that way. I mean, it’s a dog eat dog, every man for himself devil take the hindmost kind of industry. So you can see where someone with that dark triad personality, someone who’s very Machiavellian and self absorbed would be drawn to that kind of industry. I mean, it makes perfect sense. And what the author is saying here about econo paths, paid professional psychopaths who are incentivized to be total jerks by the profit they make at it, there will be people that you may encounter in your business that, that it’s all about the money. I’m reminded of an episode of The Twilight Zone. And that was based on a really good short story. The name of The Twilight Zone episode was of late I think of Clifford Ville, and it was based on a short story called blind alley by Malcolm Jamison. I highly recommend both the short story and the episode. Okay, I’m gonna sound like an English major nerd here, I get it. But this short story is actually better than the episode in my opinion. But the story revolves around this businessman who is unscrupulous and really has a sadistic type of personality, he loves being able to take advantage of somebody who’s in a weaker position. And he decides that, as he’s nearing the end of his life, and he has these health conditions, he feels like the fun, the thrill of the kill, the thrill of the hunt, was in getting the things not in having the things. So he makes a deal with the devil, he’s going to give the devil the bulk of his fortune, you know, along with his immortal soul, of course, we have to go along with the fast and Mephistopheles thing. In order to go back in time, he keeps reminiscing about this place where he grew up, and he thinks if I could go back in time, knowing all the things that I know now, even with a small sum of money, I could make even more money a second time around, I would know about all of these inventions, all of these areas of progress, they’re coming down the road, I could be even wealthier, I could trick even more people, I could take advantage of even more people, there’s all these opportunities that I could just snatch up in my cold little hands if I could go back and do it again. And of course, the devil is more than happy to oblige this businessman to go back in time and do it. But as with any, you know, Twilight Zone type of episode, there’s always a catch coming. I hate to spoil the episode for you. But in this case, because it’s relevant to the episode I will, he goes back in time, and he’s not able to do all of these scheming, conniving business deals. He knows what the inventions are, that are coming down the road, but he doesn’t know how to do any of them. He doesn’t know how to make an airplane, he doesn’t know how to make an engine for a car. He just knows that these things are coming. He also buys a patch of land where oil is going to be discovered, but not for many years. There’s no fracking, there’s no way to get the oil out from the ground. So he loses all of his money. And these places and these things that he remembers in his mind through this false nostalgia. He’s not as enthralled as he thought he would be. He remembers diseases that had been eradicated and there’s no indoor plumbing and this girl that he thought was just so beautiful and so amazing. When he goes back in time and he sees her again, he realizes that she’s a bit of a toad. So it’s like this whole experience is a major letdown, and he winds up regretting not only his decision To go back, but his decision to give up his fortune. So he it’s a it’s a moralistic story. Of course, you know, there’s this evil greedy businessman gets this come up and send the end. So when this author of this article in Psychology Today is talking about econo paths, I think of that episode of The Twilight Zone. And I think about that sadistic businessman who can’t wait to dupe people, he can’t wait to scoop in and take advantage of the less fortunate and make his millions all over again, just salivating with greed. Those people very much do exist in reality. It’s not a caricature, it’s not some made up trope just for fiction, people like that really do exist. And if we wind up taking on a client who falls into that category, I hate to sound nihilistic here. But again, I just want to be real with you, there’s really going to be very little that you could say, or do, that’s going to affect any change on that person. narcissistic personality, people in the dark triad, they don’t perceive that they have anything that needs to be changed, you’re the problem. You’re the consultant, the freelancer, the hired gun on the outside, that’s not doing what they want you to do, dammit, the problem is with you, not with them. So do you really want to expend your energy, trying to change someone who isn’t changeable? by you know, we can pray for them? Yes, we can. We can send them if you’re if you’re in the love and light crowd, you can send them love and light, you know, there are things that we can try to do to maintain a positive mentality and hope that God can change them, maybe God can have an impact on their lives. But we’re not going to be able to say or do anything that’s going to change a sow’s ear into a silk purse. So I will tell you what I told Jane, you always have to consider the cost not just financially but also emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. And when you were when we’re looking at the Met clients in the middle, we have to decide is this person enough on the scale of being okay, or being decent enough to deal with that I want to continue dealing with them, or in my interactions with them are they starting to slide more on the side where I just really want to finish this project, and then not ever bid any work with them again, it’s your business, it’s your life. And those are decisions that you have to make for yourself, I would caution you against getting confrontational with them, trying to change them trying to guilt trip them or do any kind of conniving, you just want to be very aware that if you are dealing with someone who’s in the dark triad, or as as this doctor mentions in econo path, there’s there’s not going to be anything that you can really do. So instead of trying to change someone who is on that dark triad spectrum, or someone who may not necessarily be a narcissist or sociopath of some kind, you they’re just not compatible with your style. They’re getting on your nerves and you really dread every time they send you an email. When you’re doing your affirmations, you don’t want to focus on that which is unwanted. So I would encourage you to get anything out of your system that you need to before you start writing your affirmations. I don’t want to deal with a micromanager. I don’t want to deal with a nitpicker. I don’t want to deal with somebody that’s always got something snarky to say I don’t want to deal with somebody who always has the right fight or have the last word, get all of that out of your system before you write your affirmation so that when you’re doing it, you can be focused on that which is wanted. I work with clients who are awesome. They are compatible with my work style and personality. They treat me with dignity and respect. They pay their bill in full and on time, every time. I genuinely enjoy working with them, and they genuinely enjoy working with me. When I turn in a deliverable. They are pleased with what I have given them. And it is awesome, the more that we can sort of cultivate that space. Then the further away we’re getting not only from the horrible clients that we just do not want to deal with at all. But we also begin to repel the clients that put us in business purgatory. We hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you haven’t already, please take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and share it with your friends. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.

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