A few weeks ago, I received this email from Marion, a reader with her own successful landscape design business:
I had an experience with a client this morning that made me think of you and your posts about resolving conflict.
This client was referred to me by a colleague. I must say that he was the most difficult and challenging client I have had in 7 years of garden design and installation. Communication and expectations were difficult and challenging from the get-go, despite my best efforts to be clear about how things were going to happen and to document everything. After everything was installed I went back this morning, at the client’s request, to go over in detail the invoice, the plan, and to show him where everything on the invoice was planted…After going over everything, it turned out that I did not invoice him for several plants…but when it came down to writing the final check he started nickel and diming me about the amount of hours I was charging him for my time…Long story short, he finally, grudgingly, paid me for the original invoice (of course he didn’t pay me for the plants I didn’t originally charge him for) . Then he came out and told me what a wonderful job I did and how happy he was with the finished project.
Of course after I went home I realized that he only wanted to pay me for 2 days when I was actually at his house 5 days, never mind the hour and a half I spent with him this morning…but I didn’t have a smart response in my head at the time…..Maybe it is better that I didn’t say anything…???
Good question! Marion’s experience and question felt exactly like the kind of difficult situation that solo-preneurs and small business owners experience on occasion. We value our clients and want to serve them well, yet can feel challenged, overwhelmed or poorly treated by a client now and then. What to do when you have a client you want or need to keep but who…
- Seems to negotiate to his own advantage every single time;
- Has a difficult dynamic with you too often;
- Doesn’t pay, doesn’t show up, or doesn’t seem to take your time seriously; or
- Leaves you replaying conversations over and over in your head and with a gnawing feeling in your gut?
I learned that Marion’s client will likely be returning for her services next spring and Marion would very much like to have her bearings and balance in future conversations with him. That seems like a pretty reasonable desire and goal!
So I made a proposal to Marion and thanks to her generosity, it’s a go. I’m going to be coaching Marion for the near future and posting about the process right here. I’ll talk about the work Marion chooses to pursue and the ways she uses my conflict coaching services to meet her client management goals. I imagine I’ll periodically include some of Marion’s own comments or emails, as I have above, so you can hear from her directly.