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Every manager has experienced the need to fire an employee, and every business owner has experienced the need to fire a vendor. Most family owned business owners have experienced the desire to fire a family member, and almost everyone who has dealt with an obnoxious customer has experienced the desire to fire that customer. Yet so often we don’t follow through on the evidence provided, nor the instinct that tells us that this person can only bring a caustic relationship to our business. We allow the tension to continue to build, often causing our profits to erode and productivity to be impacted. When is enough, enough? When should you fire that customer and how do you accomplish the task – professionally?
Before you make a final decision, let’s look at a few aspects of your business that might provide some additional perspective. The four “M’s” of parting ways with a customer include:
Mindset is the foundational issue for almost all relationships with people. No, not their mindset, yours! Reflect back in your or your company’s relationship with that specific customer. Have they been treated (serviced) the way you want your company to be known for treating clients? Were they treated the way you personally would like to be treated? Has the client’s issues been clearly heard; or does fear get in the way of your ability to listen to meaning of their explanation, not just the words? Very often it is our mindset, perceiving what the client knows or experiences, which is the actual stumbling block to delivering that WOW service you expound upon.
Mirror implies a reflection, in this case of oneself. Have we trained our employees to provide the best service possible or are they “mirroring” what they see leadership providing? Once our mindset is open to new perspectives, we can take a more honest look at our business. In many situations, our worst customer can be converted to our best customer just by listening and understanding where the customer is coming from and making a necessary change that can bring satisfaction. In a family business, we might find ourselves wanting to fire a family member because of what we “perceive” as their inability to work well with us. Sometimes this leads to our treating a family member with less respect than we do our employees. However, if we stop and listen to them, understand issues from their perspective, we may find a resolution that will bring a greater buy-in and respect on both sides.
Measurement of the cost for parting ways with a customer has to be considered. Is it costing more to keep the customer than to recommend they used someone else? Does the emotion of dealing with the situation impact all aspects of the business because everyone hates coming to work when that family member or customer is around? Caustic people and situations do leave lasting results if not dealt with in a timely and reflective manner. The outcomes of what to address and how to address issues needs to be weighed and measured.
Movement, taking the initiative to take action and make something happen is critical. Once you have checked your mindset and attitude; you have looked at yourself in the mirror and you have moved by making adjustments in the way you manage people in your business; the next step is addressing challenging behaviors. If you still have the employee who just doesn’t want to change, the vendor that still doesn’t deliver the quality you expect, or maybe the problem customer continues to verbally abuse everyone they come into contact with in your business, then this is time to actually take the final step. Fire them, do it professionally, but stop procrastinating. Everyone; employees, family members, and even other customers will thank you for taking action. Once you’ve followed through, you will wonder why it took so long for you to actually do it in the first place!