Secret 5 fire 20 percent of your clients

In the early 1900s, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, concluded that 20 percent of the people controlled 80 percent of the wealth. Since then, his now-famous 80:20 rule has been applied to everything from advertising and time management to identifying product defects.

In consulting, one application of Pareto's Principle is that 20 percent of your clients will generate 80 percent of your headaches. It stands to reason that you'll boost the vibrancy of your practice by pruning that disruptive 20 percent of your clients every 18 months or so. Few things damage the long-term health of a consulting practice more than client saboteurs—and there are more than a few out there.

In a "consultant-hostile" environment, higher consultant turnover may occur as team members quit to escape dealing with a difficult client. Your profitability can plummet as you integrate new team members into the project, and you'll spend endless hours reworking material the client thought was excellent earlier in the day.

Sometimes, the client-consultant relationship just doesn't work. Guerrillas are always on alert to spot troublesome clients and let them go.

It may sound crazy to fire your clients, but it is one of the best strategic actions you can take. Clients define the culture of your practice, and serving tiresome clients erodes that culture and poisons the environment. Problem clients create more work and needless stress. They kill your profits and your productivity, and that negativity can seep into your personal life.

Guerrilla Intelligence: Should You Fire a Client? Telltale Signs Include

It takes days or weeks to get on your client's calendar. Your client wants to approve or attend all your meetings with decision makers.

You have stopped developing new skills. ^ Invoices are nitpicked to death or payments are consistently late.

^ The client fails to review critical documents in a timely manner.

Your profit margin is eroding with no end in sight. Your work no longer seems to have a substantive impact on the client's business.

It takes courage to walk away from a paying client, no matter what the circumstances. But don't worry; if you excel at what you do, more profitable clients will replace that lost business.

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