Friday, July 13, 2012

Big clients CAN kill you

By Jeffrey Scott, MBA

It almost happened to me: the biggest client we ever had (million ++), at a time when we really needed the money and cash (think: recession...15 years ago). He was a pain through negotiations, and yet we bit our tongues and signed him up with a big margin. Big mistake. 

This client played all kinds of tricks on us, and he never intended to pay his final 10%. In fact, he brought troubles that I don't even want to recount in print. Sure, his cash helped us...initially....but his chaos hurt us. I have learned my lesson. The clients you say "No" to can be your best clients!

The other problem with big clients is they upset your sales cycle. You run out of time to develop new business because you are so busy with the "big" job. Trust me, this happens.

Are you feeling a cash crunch or a profit lull? Don't look for a silver bullet. Look for a better system and a better approach to your business. More of the same is just that....more sales on top of a bad financial or operational structure will do you more harm -- amplified.

When my consulting clients ask me to help them with sales, I don't automatically say, "Yes." I say, "Yes, tell me what's going on in the business." Sometimes sales will balance out your overhead, and sometimes it will make you lose more money.

Big clients are fun to brag about, but they can kill your morale and your wallet.

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, grew his landscape firm into a $10 million enterprise. He now helps owners transform and profitably grow their landscape businesses by coaching them within a peer group format. Learn about his peer groups at or contact him at


Chris Heiler said...

Good stuff, Jeffrey. I'm glad you learned the lesson for all of us :-)

"Don't look for a silver bullet. Look for a better system and a better approach to your business." Love that quote. Nice work!


Jan Johnsen said...

SO TRUE! especially about the 10% part....happens often with money manager types

Rick Gottschalk Jr said...

Great Article.....

HY1755 said...

It's the 80-20 Pareto Principle Rule. 80% of your profits come from your top 20% of clients. On the flip side, 80% of your problems / losses usually come from just 20% of your clients. Sometimes, however, it's hard to fold a pocket pair of Kings when an Ace comes up on the river card.....