Toxic clients are as old as time. Here’s a lesson from an old-school businessman to deal with them, that stands valid in this digital age.
My family is huge and I have more cousins and relatives than I am able to count, from different walks of life, spread across different countries and continents. Because of that, they come up in my stories every now and then: I often recall a sentence from the famous Chilean writer, Isabel Allende. “With a family such as mine, I don’t need much imagination”. All I have to do is to keep my ears open and my memory in fairly good shape. I learned a lot from my relatives, both from direct interaction and from old family tales, some of which are so far gone that they come with a taste of legend.
This one happened when I was in primary school. I have this relative, my grandmother’s cousin, who is quite a successful entrepreneur. Despite coming from a family of landowners he always had a knack for business and started by owning a bunch of grocery stores, eventually turning to energy supply and other ventures with lots of business overseas. So he knows a thing or two about making a good deal, and this one always stayed with me.
Although at the time this story happened his company was already expanding, my relative (let’s call him Mr L to protect his privacy) always kept an eye on all parts of the family business, so he was often at one of his first shops -which was close to his house- and dealt with the customers himself. So one day my grandmother walks in for her weekly shopping round, and finds him red as a tomato, fuming and venting:
“Clients like these…better lose ’em than keep ‘em!”
He meant clients with a tab that didn’t pay on time and made all sorts of demands, bringing more bad business than anything else. I never forgot that sentence and quote Mr L. often.
In this digital age, when many of us are writers and/or content creators, freelancers or entrepreneurs who run their own business from home, things aren’t that different from managing an old-school corner shop clientele.
Customers that bring in business but come with red flags (which almost always follow suit) are a dime a dozen in any industry, remote or otherwise, since the dawn of time.