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Firing a Bad Client, A Love Story

“You may not remember me, but we worked together a while back and you actually fired me,” the caller said after introducing himself. I felt the tentacles of my memory reaching back many years to a contentious relationship, one of the three clients in 15 years of business that I have resigned. I remember what a gut-wrenching decision that was as a business owner of a relatively new business. I also remembered why I’d done it.

“What you may not remember is that I had a particularly difficult boss and I was the conduit between you and him, so I hope you do recall it wasn’t me who gave you the grief,” he continued. “I’ve always respected you for the way you handled that situation, that you had the confidence to resign. You said you felt you couldn’t add value and we’d be better served by another agency. You were very nice and professional about it. If I had been in your shoes, I like to think I’d have done the same thing.”

I thanked him and asked what I could do for him now, twelve years later. He told me that he was now with a large technology company. He remembered we had good experience creating brands and websites for this kind of company and if my memory of him was not tainted, he’d like me to come in and pitch some work.

For years, I had maintained the impression that I was persona non grata with this person, when in fact I had differentiated myself in a positive way that took more than a decade to come back to me. Whether or not we win the business, I’m reminded that being true to oneself and making the unconventional decision can be a differentiator.