Do you have one or a handful of clients that make up a large percentage of your business?
My friend Cindy has a medical billing practice, and she recently confided in me that she had lost her largest client and was now making only one-third of what she had been making before. What struck me most about listening to her story was NOT the fact that she had allowed so much of her income to come from one client. What absolutely shocked me was how she continued to refer to the former client as her “old boss.”
Not one to be able to hold my tongue for long, I simply had to say something after she said it 4 or 5 times. I said, “Cindy, he was NOT your boss. He was your client!”
She hemmed and hawed about it, muttering, “I know, I know but…”
And I thought to myself: RIGHT THERE IS YOUR PROBLEM.
Her problem was not that she performed so much work for a single client. Her problem was that she looked at her client as her boss.
So when her “boss” told her he was going to be cutting her pay and to take it or leave it, to her it felt like he offered her the choice of either accepting a demotion or being terminated. She sadly accepted termination and felt absolutely DEVASTATED about it. Her feelings of disappointment, betrayal, and hurt were obvious. She just didn’t know what she was going to do to replace the income.
I’d love to update you and say she has since found new clients, but it isn’t true. She’s actually considering whether to keep her medical billing business or do something totally new. She obviously has the mentality of a person who has been fired, and that’s keeping her from feeling empowered. It’s keeping her from feeling like SHE is the boss of her own company. She looks at herself as a remote employee, even though she’d never admit it.
When her former “boss” cut her fees, she was unable to approach the situation from a peer-to-peer perspective and convey her value and negotiate for a better outcome. She didn’t approach it from a “they need me more than I need them” perspective. She didn’t approach it from a “how can I keep their business?” perspective. She didn’t try to figure out how to offer them something ELSE of high perceived value to the client and low cost to her so she could keep getting paid her fees.
In fact, she CONTINUES to take calls from her “old boss” to answer questions that SHOULD be answered by their new billing company! The new billing company even calls her on occasion…and she helps them, too!
Can you see the problem here? And I’m sure we would all like to think that we would be strong and say, “Hey, we don’t work together anymore, so I’m not going to help you.” But the truth is that most of us would probably help. The questions are (a) whether we would get ourselves into this situation in the first place, and (b) if we did, could we use the frequent requests for help as leverage to convey our value and renegotiate an agreement?
An employee wouldn’t feel confident enough to do it. But a CEO, a business owner, a BOSS? Yeah, a CEO and BOSS would.
We ARE accountable to our clients, and we want to serve them well. We want them to keep using our services. We want them to say nice things about us. We want them to send us referrals. And we want them to pay us what we charge—in other words, pay us what we’re worth, and not a penny less!
But a client is NOT your boss. So don’t fall into the trap of feeling like an employee or you may get treated like one who is dispensable, disposable, and powerless. Remember that YOU are the boss of your own company and you have the right and responsibility to fight for your business!