Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Is It Time to Let a Client Go?

If you're like me, you want to think that you can help everybody.  The truth, of course, is that you can't. That is true in life, and it's true in the world of grant writing and program evaluation, too.

I recently let a long time client go.  At the same time, I released about $70,000 in income they would have provided over the next year and half.

Why?

Because it was the right thing to do.

The bottom line is that when the relationship isn't helping the client anymore and it's making you crazy, it's time to step back. I reached that point with this client.

My contacts for the organization were not taking any of my suggestions (which is their prerogative, of course) and they were making really poor decisions that were not good for anyone, especially the youth served by that organization. There was so much infighting and backstabbing and lying within their organization that nothing got done and no one knew who to trust.

After working with them for 8 years in various capacities, I spent the last two years focused on my role with them and just trying to stay alive.

Just trying to stay alive.....seriously.  My health suffered. I wasn't sleeping. I had convinced myself that to walk away meant failure, and I just don't do failure. So I was banging my head against the wall until I realized that my work with them wasn't helping anyone.

Since they were ignoring my reports and advice, not letting me do my job (everyone's an expert, ya know), and I was literally sick from all the stress, it made no sense to continue the relationship.

Sure, that was a lot of money to walk away from, and it made me nervous, but money was not a good enough reason to stay. Money should never be the main reason for taking or keeping a consulting job.  It's about making a difference.  If you are not making a difference, what's the point?

Walking away wasn't easy.  I knew there would be gossip and speculation about what happened, and there was. I knew professional ethics wouldn't let me speak about the detail of what happened, and I didn't - even when I heard untrue rumors floating around. I also knew that there were some very bad things going on related to youth that I would not be able to even attempt to remedy if I walked away, but I had to. That was the really hard part.

So I walked away. What happened?  My health has improved dramatically.  I'm sleeping well again. I have time now to take on new clients who want to work with me, so I'm developing new relationships and my work is fun again and more fulfilling.

Oh yeah....and these new clients have just about replaced the income I lost from the old one, and it only took a couple of months. So my biggest fear - losing the income - was just a boogieman that couldn't survive in the light of reality.

The client hired another firm to handle the work.  Maybe that will work out really well for them.

Maybe the change I made will end up being better for everyone in the long run.

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience - walking away from a client when it's not good for anyone is not a failure. It's an opportunity to grow. Sometimes it's the only right thing to do.

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.