Parting Ways With a Client
Working with Grants Works’ clients is one of the most enjoyable parts of my business.
I enjoy helping them prepare winning grant proposals, providing aha moments with on point advice and precise technical assistance, helping them streamline their operations, and I really, really like providing in-person training for either a client’s team or at a conference.
However, there was a time when I realized one of my clients was not quite ready for our services.
I noticed it when I found that I was doing way more hand-holding than I needed in order for them to “get it” or get stuff done. Do I blame the client? Absolutely not.
I caused it. I was a wet behind the ears consultant who wanted to please and get as many clients as I could handle.
Here’s how it went.
First, I agreed to three consecutive six-month engagements that included weekly meetings, management advisory consulting, grant management, and grant application support for an amount I would not accept today. But sister was just getting started and I didn’t know any better.
Those weekly meetings started becoming draining because I was doing too much.
I was basically doing the work of someone early in her career instead of the government grant expert who should be compensated for her knowledge instead of organizing her client’s files. Some of the tasks I completed were administrative and others included an impromptu lesson on how to build an organizational budget and helping them strategize on a non-grant-related initiative.
Second, I realized I spent too much time helping the client understand why they were putting the cart before the horse by focusing on getting grants without a structured program in place.
As I became more and more aware of what I was allowing to happen, I first proposed biweekly meetings thinking that would help.
Finally, I realized I could not renew the consulting nagreement.
The money was not worth it.
Even if they paid me three times what we agreed to, the money was not worth feeling drained and tired after our weekly (or biweekly) calls.
They are not aware that I decided not to renew for this reason. I chalked it up to going another way in my business—which is true—I decided to stop offering services that included so much execution as an extension of the organization and, instead, focus on what I was great at—helping people understand federal grants through training and speaking engagements and helping clients streamline their internal processes.
This example is the first of two times I parted ways with a client. I’ll share the deets about the second time in another post. In the meanwhile, check out my list of lessons learned.
- Get clear about your services—not just the services themselves—but the parameters of each service. What will each service include and, just as important, what it will not.
- If possible, start with a three-month retainer. That gives you and the client enough time to determine how beneficial the engagement will be, how cooperative either party will be, and if you like working with each other.
- Never do the client’s admin work. Just don’t.
- If you find that engaging with a client is draining instead of stimulating because they don’t have the capacity to really benefit from your services, I recommend you first find out if there is someone else at the organization that can be your primary contact. If not, I recommend not renewing the agreement when it ends or sending your notice of termination in writing. Be sure to check the terms of the consulting agreement first.
- End the engagement on the best terms possible to keep your relationship and business’ reputation intact.
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