Why This Company Chose to Fire Its Biggest Client

December 26, 2015

3:00 pm

Being the head of a quickly-growing digital marketing agency can be very stressful. These rough days and weeks are often made better by great meetings with appreciative clients that are happy with what we’ve delivered. Before firing our biggest client just a few weeks ago, I read at least 25 articles online about others that had done so and how much it helped them springboard their business forward.

I remember my first meeting with them. I had been in business about two months and was really starting to gain steam, pushing to get “bigger and better” clients. Finally, I had a meeting with a nationally-recognized company and I put all my cards on the table. They told me they had met with a ton of bigger and more established agencies but wanted to give me an opportunity to pitch them. I went in, gave my presentation, we discussed contract stipulations, and I left. I wasn’t comfortable for one minute of it – the CEO gave off some of the worst vibes I’ve ever felt. A week went by and I didn’t hear from them. I walked around telling friends and family, “it’s better off, they would have been a headache.” Eight days after our meeting, the phone rang at 8:00 am and it was the CEO. “Send over your contract, you start today. Get to the office in an hour.” Contract sent, contract signed, and – yes – I danced a little.

The next few months were a complete nightmare. I’ve worked at agencies before; I’ve seen the worst of the worst. At least, I thought I had seen the worst. I’m a laid back, caring, honest guy – I appreciate people being direct and honest with me. I’ve had plenty of clients say, “I like that, I don’t love that.” I’ve had clients say, “I really don’t like that.” It happens. But two things happened over the course of our three months together that made me sick to my stomach.

The first of which was this client cursing at me. I have to admit, most of my client meetings are filled with expletives, that’s just the nature of the advertising business. However, I have never had anyone in a professional setting call me names, and it was a reoccurring thing with this person. Even then, I stuck around, attributing it to “that’s just who he is.” It was what he did to his own employees that made me pull the plug. For months, I watched this man, scream, curse, slam his fists, and throw fits in his employee’s faces. The final straw for me came as he screamed and cursed in a female employee’s face in front of a room of people. I sat there, blank faced, and thought to myself, “I never want to help this man make another penny.”

In our time working together, this company’s traffic rose from 9,877 unique visitors in month one to 17,543 in month three. The company’s largest month of online transactions was 115 before we started with them; they never did a month under 200 with us running their digital marketing department. To be fair, their huge budget and the freedom we were given allowed us to do some amazing work, which helped me earn some new clients.

In our final meeting, I was very upfront and honest about ending our relationship, explaining that the explosion in his employee’s face was just not how I work and not a situation I could be a part of. My honesty was met head-on with the same of what I’d seen over the previous three months, anger and madness.

Run your business the way you want to run it. Building a business can be incredibly stressful, but it’s much easier if you build your business with good, supportive, and respectful customers. At some point, no amount of money is worth dealing with unruly people. Do what’s best for you and your company in the long run, not your bank account in the short term.


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Adam Greenbaum is an award-winning entrepreneur and CEO of WhiskerCloud and Greenbaum Digital in Denver, CO. Most digital marketers pride themselves on specializing in one particular aspect of marketing – social media, web design, analytics, email marketing, search engine marketing – Adam specializes in all of it. A true data nerd, Adam lives to beat the previous month’s numbers, every single month. Adam can often be found roaming Denver with his Boston Terriers and his camera. He’s also an avid fan of the Broncos, Avalanche, Nuggets, Rockies, and Oklahoma Football.

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