Fire them. Get new customers.
Sounds too easy right? Yes, I hear the voice in your head “It’s hard to find new customers”, “I can’t afford to get rid of these customers, they are paying my bills!” This is such a typical place for entrepreneurs to be after an early success breaking into the market and capturing a few early adopting customers. Seth Godin was famous for sharing that they fired their biggest client who was about two-thirds of their business because they were jerks.
“We decided that we didn’t want to work with jerks and become the kind of company that was good at working with jerks.”
Let your competitors handle the scraps, aim for the top.
The top does not mean aiming for only enterprise clients or those who pay the most, but aim for those customers who share your worldview and respect that you are an artist at what you create. These are the customers who have empathy for your work and hold you to account if you produce something average and mediocre. Your relationship is based on both creating an abundance to share, not selfishly slicing up scarce resources (money, time etc). For example, if you provide virtual assistance services to SMEs, you may end up with some clients who are rude to your team, use more of your services than they know they should and don’t pay on time. Or, maybe you’re an online blogger and the only way you have been able to keep going is through inserting ads in your blog posts that disrupt your true readers and profit from the few you click through. Perhaps you are just surviving in business because of the money these people provided. Does this sound similar to you?
Please fire them, it’s not worth it.
If you weren’t spending day after day serving customers you don’t respect, who could you be inspiring instead? Consider those people who are waiting for you to show up, do your best work and pay you what your worth. Unfortunately for these people, you don’t have time to find them because you’re stuck with picking up the scraps. Try this. I want you to imagine that you have no customers today and that you have enough money to pay your bills for the next six months. You have no employees, no payroll, no office, no overheads and no meetings where you need to show up. What would you do?
Do that today.
I’m not suggesting you quit your business, but maybe you should quit the parts that fulfill someone else’s dreams and not yours. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we call ‘work’ that you can lose touch with using your entrepreneurial flare to create, innovate, poke, challenge and scare people. You could start the scary prospect of a blank piece of paper and someone who doesn’t know your business. Turn off your email for a day, go to a quite place and just dream. Here is your chance, what would you create that would you change the world today if you were starting all over again?
Really, what is your job?
Yes, perhaps you have customers, investors and employees that have got you to where you are today. Maybe they are committed to your vision and have invested in a future with you. However you are going to be at a conflict when you want to be remarkable and they want to be safe, predictable and boring. Entrepreneurship takes guts because everyone who once believed in you will doubt you at some point soon. Don’t be alarmed and don’t feel betrayed. If you’re not turning believers into doubters, you’re playing it too safe in sandbox.
Throw some sand at the wall. See what happens.
On my recent interview with John Saddington, Entrepreneur and daily blogger for over 10 years, he said:
“As an Entrepreneur, your job is not to satisfy your current constituency. It’s not to entertain, maybe it’s to challenge them, but certainly not to pander or placate. Your role within the greater community and the economy is to push the bar down the road. To challenge the principles, the paradigms, the products that exist. And you can make the world a better place.”
I don’t believe for one second that your job as an entrepreneur is to serve every customer who wants what you sell. As articulated by Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, instead they why you do it. Start here. Grow your tribe by gaining their trust and permission to share your ideas with them. You don’t need their commitment to buy, just their permission to continue to pitch new ideas as they come. Your job is to treat your work as art, tell great stories that change people and to be remarkable.
Todd Heslin is a serial entrepreneur, blogger and podcast host of the Remarkable Crowdfunding Toddcast. Among successful startups in the Clean Tech and Software sectors, Todd proudly has dozens of failures that have shaped his experience and character as an entrepreneur. His most recent startup is a Social Referral Network called Referron and he spends the rest of his time writing on his blog at BeingRemarkable.me