Managing a Bad Client – How to Overcome this Challenge 10


Hello Dreamer!

I want to share this personal story with you as I think it could be helpful to overcome this small business challenge.  I am currently faced with a common issue that almost every business owner is faced with at one time or another – a bad client. A bad client is one that is uncooperative, refuses to pay, or in some other way breaches their contract terms and conditions. I’m sharing this as a lesson to those of you who may not yet have had this come up in your business.

This bad client was a referral from another long-term, good client so I was eager to assist him in opening his Bad Clientpersonal training studio. The client was completely naive about what it takes to open a business, let alone a physical location and initially thought he could get everything up and running within one week of beginning his consulting relationship with me. This was a completely unrealistic expectation of course given that he didn’t have a plan, name, location, legal entity, business account, EIN, business license, vendors for his equipment, or anything else necessary to open his doors. He was also extremely averse to social media. Needless to say, his case was challenging.

I am not in the habit of lying to my clients just to make a buck. I give them realistic expectations and coach them through to the best decisions to move forward with their business. This bad client had a strong dislike for any consultative advice I gave him because it was not what he wanted to hear even if it was the truth. I don’t just advise. I educate and I am gifted at training. This bad client was not coachable and chose to listen to ill-equipped family members who had no business acumen. Case in point, one of these family members advised him that his personal training studio should be a nonprofit so he could gain access to grant money. Even a layman should be aware that there is no charitable cause present in the traditional personal training studio, yet this is what I had to contend with. He also has another relative whom is a recently graduated criminal defense attorney and was advising him that he didn’t need me because she could do everything. This same person had been “working on his business plan” for over 6 months with nothing to show by the client’s own admission.

To make a long story shorter, I assisted the bad client through my direct consulting services and referral resources to get everything he needed and up and running within three months, pretty decent timing. Just before his doors were opened, he notified me that he felt he would no longer be able to pay my monthly retainer and requested termination of the contract. This was in his right as I allow a 30-day notice for contract termination and I had already made up my mind that I wanted to terminate him after his doors opened anyway because he was not coachable. All money isn’t good money.

At this point, the bad client had about 15 days left in his current billing cycle in which I planned to wrap up all work on his website and social media files so I could turn things over nice and neat. I attempted to login to find out that he had stripped my access to everything so I could not complete the work. Furthermore, he had submitted a chargeback against my merchant processor for several monthly retainer fees citing a cause of “duplicate charge.” Of course this was not only untrue but constitutes fraud and was a breach of contract.

Because I have a signed authorization and fully executed contract, I was able to fight the chargebacks but now this former bad client is disgruntled and launching an attack against me and my business. He is creating fake Facebook pages and email addresses to harass me with posts and emails claiming to “out” me as a fraud who scams small businesses. I will not respond directly to any of these because I am a professional; therefore, I will only send out professional communications addressing the business owner and/or business entity. I have not called him names or used any of the foul language I am currently being assaulted with.

I have been doing what I do for well over 15 years. I am so saturated in my local market that almost everybody who frequents the small business scene in Chicago either knows me or knows of me. To this end, I am not worried about this bad client’s actions as my reputation speaks for itself and I manage it daily.

Takeaway Lessons to Manage a Bad Client

  1. ALWAYS use a contract. Make sure that the contract is reviewed by your attorney for maximum effectiveness.
  2. Make good customer service a priority.
  3. Follow your gut. If your values and beliefs don’t seem to mesh, it’s okay to fire your bad client. All money isn’t good money.
  4. Document EVERYTHING! Even phone calls. Follow up phone calls with an email confirmation of what was discussed so you have proof.
  5. Manage your reputation. You can set up a Google alert of your own name and business name to see what is being said about you. Respond positively and immediately to negative reviews.
  6. Don’t make rash business decisions out of emotion. Be practical and think long-term.
  7. Be careful how you represent your brand. This former bad client is making himself look foolish.
  8. Don’t make enemies you can’t afford. When you burn bridges, you never know who knows who.

Have you ever had to deal with a bad client?  How did you overcome this challenge?

I want to hear from you.  Please share your experience and thoughts on this post in the comments below.  And if you liked this post, please share it with your networks!


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10 thoughts on “Managing a Bad Client – How to Overcome this Challenge

  • Roslyn Tanner Evans

    In hindsight, I’m sure you wish you had never started with him. I have read many articles from coaches that talk about making sure you are a good fit. Over the years, I had a few experiences looking for a coach and saw how important the fit was. Often timetable, my taking actions they set out for me, was the main issue that interfered with the process and expense. I learned to request a 1 -month trial. Most coaches insisted on 3 months minimum. One time I agreed to 3 months at a very high fee and in 2nd month, asked to end the relationship. After much upset for each of us, we compromised on the balance due. In this case, I was the bad client, not because I wouldn’t take the coaching but because I did not have the skills to implement and depended on other people who couldn’t produce. It was messy and uncomfortable for each of us. We tried ending on good terms because we were likely to run across each other in social media. That did not happen. In hindsight, I was not ready for a coach that expected specific technological actions in a short time frame. We were not a good fit and I believe she was a really good coach.

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      Coach Niquenya Post author

      True, Roslyn. I knew within the first 2 weeks that we weren’t a good fit but I wanted to at least fulfill my commitment to get his doors open before I terminated the relationship. It was very clear pretty early on that this client was not coachable. It is okay to fire your client.

      I also think that perhaps the coaches you had didn’t do a good enough job ensuring that you were comfortable and committed to the goals and tasks that were assigned. Yes, a coach should push you to stretch beyond your comfort zone but one of the most important jobs we have is to also make sure the client has the right resources, knowledge, and ability to follow through with agreed tasks to completion.

  • Beverley Golden

    Of all the things you talk about in this personal story, number 3 resonates the most with me. Always trust your gut and take action based on what your own inner guidance is telling you. An uncomfortable match is exactly that. And yes, all money isn’t good money.

    This happens so often in other areas of our lives as well and your piece brought up some situations that I have been faced with in my life that had a similar theme to it. More on a personal level, however, through persistence and ongoing communication, I was able to ultimately resolve the “money” issue to everyone’s satisfaction. These situations often have much for us to learn from and even though you are still going through an unpleasant time with this now former “client”, my hope is it gets resolved and you can both move forward. It is amazing how many people want to be “right” at all costs and I love that you have stood firm in your own knowing of the value you bring and that your reputation and your history speaks for itself. Thanks for sharing and wishing everything turns out perfectly for everyone involved.

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      Coach Niquenya Post author

      Agreed Beverley. Even now, I do sincerely hope this former client is successful in his business and learns a few hard lessons about the right way to go about things. This was a good reminder to shore up my systems and processes as much as possible to mitigate the risks associated with these types of situations. I am confident things will work out the way they should. I shared because, exactly as you say, there is so much for us to learn from these situations, not just in business, but in other areas of our lives as well. Thanks for your input!

  • Shay

    Thank you for sharing this story Niquenya. As a first time self-employed coach, these are great reminders. I haven’t had any difficulties so far but I will keep this in mind as I move forward.

  • Deb Nelson

    Wow – what an experience! If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone having bad clients. I just had lunch with a friend of mine who has a couple of clients she needs to fire. Lots of lessons to be learned for all of us who work as consultants. AND – listening to your gut is huge. Good for you for having such a good reputation so that this client won’t destroy the business and good will you’ve built. I’ll be sharing this post with many!!

  • Michelle Williams

    What an awful experience to go through Coach Niquenya but your reputation outshone his vindictive onslaught and you win the game! He’s probably likely to try it again with some other poor unsuspecting business owner while you dust yourself down and get on with what you do best and that’s being a darn good Coach. I’ll definitely take away your tips in the event this horrible ordeal happens to me or someone I know. Fore warned is fore armed!

  • Sharise

    Hi Niquenya,
    This is the least fun part of our work but necessary for us to grow. I am sorry you went through this and I applaud you for remaining calm and classy throughout this ordeal. Thank you for sharing!

  • A. Lynn Jesus

    These are great tips! I really like the points of using a contract (everyone is happy when things get started, but they come in handy just in case!) and to document. I come from project management and there is a saying that is it isn’t documented it basically never happened! Documentation is just a great way to keep a record and a recollection. Thanks for sharing this story!