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The Practitioner: Collision course with crackpot clients

AN OLD PARTNER I once worked for used to say: “There are bad clients, and there are worse ones.”

Turns out he was right.

That may be slightly harsh on the handful of genuinely good clients I have who are a pleasure to work with and who value your every thought, word and action. But for the majority of the blood-sapping clients, it is 100% true.

Since forming the new practice, the venture has highlighted which clients are hard work and which are a dream to work for. Most of them fall into the former category, I’m afraid to say. It’s only when you actually get involved on a day-to-day basis with them that it becomes apparent.

But this is nothing new – in fact, I don’t know why I’m surprised. I remember having this exact conversation with the partners from my former practice and making plans to weed out the crackpots from the cream crackers.

Despite having capable staff, being the sole partner in the business puts demands on you that most clients don’t appreciate. They expect you to have more time for them than you did before and more time to listen to their petty complaints on the phone for the best part of an hour. You and I know that simply isn’t the case. If anything, time is less than it was before, especially in the first few months of setting up.

Winning new work hasn’t been a problem recently and that is despite hiking up the fees I’d normally quoted. Placing the emphasis on the personal, ‘hand-holding’ service has helped there – that’s for sure. The only fear is that by dealing with the new clients, you take your eye off the ball with the existing crackpot clients.

Initial feedback from clients is that they love the more streamlined way of working that we have adopted: less paper, and more online exchanges of information. We have balanced this new method of working by offering more of ourselves than before: visiting the client at their premises for meetings and having a “tea and a chat”.

We do intend to do an online survey every quarter to ask clients for feedback, suggestions and improvements, to make them feel a part of the process. The hope is that some of them will suggest they leave and take their endless moaning with them.

The Practitioner’s uncensored thoughts originally came from the coalface of a regional firm in the heart of England – but are now from within their own practice


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