056: How to Get Rid of BAD Clients (FIRES Method)

Aug 11, 2023

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056: How to Get Rid of BAD Clients (FIRES Method)

Aug 11, 2023

Read time: 2:47 minutes  

In this week's edition, I'm going to explain how to fire bad fractional CFO clients.

If you're a fractional CFO long enough, you'll eventually get a client that you need to fire. I'm not talking about the GOOD clients that you've just outgrown.

I'm talking about clients that:

🤬 Are disrespectful
👻 No-show for calls
🧠 Always know more than you
⏰ Regularly show up late for calls

We put up with the nonsense time and time again until we've finally had enough! We're ready to kick them to the curb - their revenue be damned!

...annnnd then we realize that we've got to actually have a break up conversation. And just the thought of HAVING a break up conversation can be paralyzing!

So we end up keeping the cancerous client for MONTHS longer than we should and we begin to dread the thought of working with them.

Most people lack a framework for the breakup.

Breaking up with bad clients is hard, and most of the struggle is in our head:

  • We aren't exactly sure what to say.

  • We worry that they'll leave us horrible reviews.

  • We tell ourselves stories about how the client will react.

  • We are pleasers and we don't to disappoint anyone (even a-holes).

Today, I'm going to give you the EXACT framework to follow when it's time to breakup with bad clients. 

When breaking up with bad clients, I suggest you do it via email. You don't owe bad clients a phone call (or anything else).

Just follow this script.

I call it the FIRES method.

First, begin with the end in mind.

The ultimate goal in breaking up with a client is to get them offboarded as quickly as possible with as little drama as possible.

What our egos would like us to do is to give them a piece of our mind. But the reality is that there's nothing we're going to say to them that will open their eyes to the errors of their ways.

Telling them all the bad things they've done just opens the door for a dramatic response or bad reviews.

Remember, our goal is a professional, fast, and efficient offboarding.  

Insert gratitude and humility.

Start the breakup email with gratitude and humility. Thank them for the opportunity to serve them.

"Uh, this client is a jerk. Why in the WORLD would I start with GRATITUDE???"
- You, probably

When someone opens an email that starts with gratitude and humility, it naturally gets their mindset in a curious, calm place. This is good and it serves our ideal outcome well.

Additionally, when we write an email that starts with gratitude and humility, it helps get our mindset right and sets us up for a less emotionally driven email. 

Rip off the bandaid.

Don't spend a lot of time on an elaborate email explaining all the reasons why things didn't work out and why you no longer want to work with the client.

Cut right to the chase and tell them that it's become apparent to you that you're no longer a fit to serve them in the way that they need. Let them know the effective date that your services will be ending. 

Expectations Setting.

The goal here is to minimize the back and forth required with the client to wrap things up.

Lay out the game plan for exactly how they'll be offboarded. The name of the game here is brevity and specificity. 

Be as specific as possible with any final deliverables, delivery dates, handoffs, etc. 

Once again, we don't want to write out a novel. Give them 3-5 bullet points that summarizes what they can expect between now and the final date of your services.

Show gratitude again.

Yup. Finish up by thanking them once more. 

Again, we want to finish this relationship with as little drama as possible. Hitting them with one more "thank you for the opportunity" at the end is a great way to help that cause.

First, begin with the end in mind.
Insert gratitude and humility. 
Rip off the bandaid. 
Expectation setting.
Show gratitude again.

That's it.
The break up email doesn't need to be anything long or convoluted. 

I'll leave you with two lessons I've learned from breaking up with bad clients:

1. Don't overthink the email. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to craft the PERFECT email that would leave the bad client happy I canned them. That's impossible. Just get it sent.

2. Break ups can be a monologue. If the client wants to engage in some back and forth, you do NOT have to respond. Remember, this is a BAD client. You don't owe them anything beyond what you've provided in the breakup email. 

Your coach,

Whenever you are ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Join us at The CFO Accelerator Live in Dallas, TX from May 15-17. 2024 and learn how to get more clients, increase your pricing, and close more sales! Get your ticket here.
  2. The Inner Circle - every month my team and I go live and share the most impactful lessons we've learned in our journey to start, scale, and optimize our own CFO firm (including live Q&A). Plus you'll get access to our private community of over 200 Fractional CFOs.
  3. If you'd like more amazing (and free!) content about starting, scaling, or optimizing your Fractional CFO firm check out The CFO Report.

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