I Got Fired!


It is true. I did get fired…as a client. Or as they very politely put it “we are retiring ourselves from your account”. After three months. Ouch.

I’m not going to lie, it caused significant issues in my business. The projects they were working on were on a critical timeline. Their decision to cease work resulted in stressful days and sleepless nights to get things back on track. Then I started to reflect. Was I a bad client?

Part of the feedback I received from them went something like this:

Principal: “We are haemorrhaging money on your account. You know how it works Ceinwen, with billable hours and the like. It’s just not profitable for us to keep going”.

Me: “Why is this the first time you have raised this? If we need to allocate more time and money to achieve the outcomes I am looking for, I would be happy to do so”.

Principal: “I don’t feel comfortable asking clients for more money”.

Wow. The irony of the conversation was not lost on either of us, given part of my specialisation is value pricing! The conversation was frank, difficult to have (for both of us) and they ended up refunding my fee.

It was completely the right decision for both of us. 

We weren’t a good fit for what I needed. It resulted in me revisiting First Follower’s requirements and priorities over the next twelve months. It also caused me to pause and reflect on my expectations, was I too demanding? Anyone who has worked with me knows I have exceedingly high standards. And, ahem, I have been told at times that I can be quite intimidating. But that is the standard I deliver to my clients and therefore I need to work only with the people who make my boat go faster. I make no apologies for that. However, it does mean I need to choose the right kind of people and organisations to work with my business to enable its success.

Having the right conversations at the outset is critical. It can be confronting for you and your client but it sets the tone for the relationship and establishes a powerful authorising environment on the value you will bring to them.

It is very easy to blame the consultant, adviser, agency, supplier or company when things go wrong. Yet we all have war stories about that client. Unrealistic expectations, impossible timelines or who are just plain disrespectful of the expertise and skill you bring to their business. 

As advisers we need to be able to have the value conversation, and price the client accordingly (listen to the 2Bobs podcast on Pricing here). It is the latter which can be most challenging. It takes a steadfast confidence in your expertise. 

Back to my recent example, it was the best thing for both of us. In the immortal words of Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear “Sometimes bad things happen so that good things can happen”. Over the next few months there are some really exciting things happening with First Follower, together with an amazing team, and I’m so looking forward to sharing with you.

If you’d like to know more about value pricing in your organisation, please get in contact: info@firstfollower.com

Ceinwen McNeil is the founder and managing director of client focused international strategy firm, First Follower. Drawing on over twenty years of business development and client management experience in both the public and private sectors, she founded First Follower to enable businesses to successfully navigate step growth change. Ceinwen’s direct approach, commercial acumen and exemplary stakeholder engagement skills make her a highly sought-after adviser.

Ceinwen McNeil