Not all business is good business; read the signs

Sylvia Pennington

Does a small subset of your clients cause you more headaches than the whole rest of the bunch combined? Welcome to the 80-20 rule at work.

Also known as the Pareto principle, it’s a rule of thumb which states that for any given event, 80 per cent of the effects can be attributed to 20 per cent of the causes.

So is all business good business? Or are you better off kicking some of your troublesome 20 per cent to the kerb and concentrating on strengthening your ties with the low-hassle remainder?

Here are some signs it may be time to tell some of your customers ‘thanks, but we’re through’.

Bad manners

Your people bend over backwards to treat their people well – and regularly cop rudeness in return. It’s one of the hallmarks of a bad client, according to business strategist Rowdy McLean, and you’re likely to keep copping it for as long as you continue to accept their custom. Letting someone treat your staff like dirt just because they pay the bills is bad for morale, McLean says. Conversely, sending ill-mannered customers packing sends a strong signal that you value the effort your team puts in.

Just this once?

You’ve got rules, standards, ways of doing business…but you’ll put them aside on this occasion, won’t you, because it would suit us better if you did? Chances are the customer who asks for accommodation of this nature will be trouble with a capital ‘T’, according to trends analyst and consultant Michael McQueen.

“Good customers don’t expect you to bend the rules or even break them in order to satisfy their needs,” McQueen says. “Every business and business owner needs to have non-negotiables they won’t compromise on, even if it means costing them a sale.”

Work with us here

Pulling together for a shared goal – it’s one of the satisfactions of dealing with long standing customers who value your efforts to build a rapport and appreciate having you on their team. Or do you more often end up feeling like you’re captaining the opposition? Customers that aren’t genuine about building a cooperative working relationship are customers you don’t want or need, McLean says.

Wanting more for less

You’re reliable, responsive and do good work – evidence of which is the fact that many of your clients are regulars. Are the handful who make a practice of haggling, demanding extraordinary discounts and not paying their bills on time worth hanging on to? Put the time you spend reasoning with them and hounding them for money into pursuing better prospects, or servicing those who value your work and are prepared to pay for it fairly and on time, McQueen says.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.