THE BLOG
03/13/2014 10:01 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

11 Times It's Appropriate to Fire a Customer

When (and how) should you fire a customer?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

A. If They Cause 80 Percent of Your Headaches

2014-03-12-PatrickConley.jpgThe 80/20 rule states that 20 percent of your customers are accounting for 80 percent of your headaches. Fire those customers who are zapping your time and energy, and re-invest it in the 20 percent of customers who create 80 percent of your revenue. There's an abundance of great customers out there, and no reason to cling onto the ones who make you miserable!
- Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

A. When Expectations Are Not Alligned

2014-03-12-JohnRood.jpgIf it becomes clear that your product or service is not going to be a good fit, it's time to let go. Continuing on risks building ill will. Often, your product isn't the right fit for a given customer, but he or she can still refer you to contacts who would be a good fit.
- John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

A. After Disrespecting Employees

2014-03-12-MattMickiewicz.jpgIf a customer repeatedly disrespects your employees, if employees are afraid to pick up when the customer calls or if the customer sucks up a disproportionate amount of your time by being indecisive or making constant (and unwarranted) requests for changes, it's time to move on.
- Matt Mickiewicz, Hired

A. If They Violate Your Contract

2014-03-12-KellyAzevedo.jpgFor coaches or consultants, a good client contract will detail how both parties can end the relationship. Follow the guidelines you set out at the beginning of the contract, and give clear notice that you are ending a contract. If your contracts don't have this clause, get a lawyer to edit your agreement right away!
- Kelly Azevedo, She"s Got Systems

A. After You Know Your Worth

2014-03-12-SethTalbott.jpgYou have to be aware of how much your time and effort is really worth. Once you know your value, you can better evaluate what business to pursue and which customers to seek or avoid. When you figure out your worth, it helps you zoom out of a difficult situation and look at the larger picture, so the conflict doesn't dominate your decision process.
- Seth Talbott, Preferling

A. When They're More Trouble Than They're Worth

2014-03-12-BrittanyHodak.jpgThe customer is not always right, and all customers certainly aren't always right for your business. The moment one of your customers becomes more trouble to manage than their business is worth, cut them loose and look for a better partner. You should also refuse to work with customers who are disrespectful to your employees. Having bad customers is the quickest way to poison office morale.
- Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

A. Six Months Ago

2014-03-12-EmersonSpartz.pngBy the time you decide to fire your customer, you probably should have done so six months ago. Are there certain customers who are taking up a disproportionate amount of your time for the amount of profit that they generate? Then it's time to let go. However, don't just fire the unprofitable ones. If they cause a lot of stress, get rid of them gently but firmly and find replacements.
- Emerson Spartz, Spartz

A. When It's Not a Good Fit

2014-03-12-JennyBlake.jpgWhen a client and provider aren't a fit, neither one wins. Let them down easy by grounding in what's true about the situation -- it doesn't feel like the best fit, but you want to ensure they get the top-notch service they deserve. Their time and money are precious and would be better served by someone who (fill in the details). Try to recommend at least two other providers they can contact.
- Jenny Blake, Jenny Blake

A. When They Violate Your Client Standards

2014-03-12-RobbyHill.jpgOne of my best friends fires clients for being abusive to his coworkers or employees or demanding unreasonable expectations of the company. This friend has been firing clients for a decade and has found that staying with that decision -- no matter what the immediate financial consequences are -- has earned him more respect within his industry than if he took on a lot of problematic accounts.
- Robby Hill, HillSouth

A. When the Value Is Diminished

2014-03-12-MarenHogan.pngA client-vendor relationship is a valuable thing. If one of you no longer sees the other as valuable to the business, the relationship will disintegrate on its own. It's tempting to keep relationships going past their "sell-by" date, but don't. By stepping back when it was right for my customers, I've gotten repeat business and referrals instead of frustration and stress.
- Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

A. Before Things Go Sour

2014-03-12-BenishShah.jpgIf your customer is costing you more in time, energy and stress than they are providing you in compensation, it's time to end the relationship before things go sour. Make it as friendly as possible, with the "it's not you; it's me" and "lets be friends" route. You never want to burn bridges if you can avoid it.
- Benish Shah, Before the Label