I was fired from a client yesterday and I’m devastated. It wasn’t a pretty, we hate to see you go, kinda thing. It was one of those, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. It was ugly and I’m crushed. I really liked this client personally and professionally. We had lot’s of great talks and worked very well together. We were doing a lot of good things. I respected them and enjoyed their company. I was 110% committed to their business and it’s success. Yet, in spite of all the positive, I made a poor judgement call and it all came crashing down.
What did I do?
I billed them for performance commissions I had earned per the contract. So what’s wrong with that you’re wondering? The problem was, in spite having met the commission terms of our contract, we were no where close to where we wanted to be from a sales perspective. The results of our efforts were lagging. We were down considerably and to bill them for commissions, regardless if it had been earned, was poor judgement on my part. I clearly missed an opportunity to demonstrate I was in it to win it with my client. Instead, I got caught up in the very inflexible, go by the book engagement that I hate personally. Why? I don’t know. I remember not having a very good feeling when my book keeper sent the invoice, but I didn’t act on it. I remember thinking, sending this invoice isn’t the best thing to do right now. But, I also recall not having an alternative solution in my head, so I punted — big mistake!
One of my own personal development areas is learning how to deal with situations where I don’t have the solution right away. I have a tendency to react, to take whatever action is in front of me, rather than wait until I can come up with a better solution. I did that in this case, to dire consequences. In hindsight I see a whole bunch of options, starting with calling my client and saying; “Hey look, we tripped a commission trigger, but considering where we are, I’m not comfortable billing you. How would you like to handle it.” Simple! But I missed it!
Instead I billed them. I ignored the little voice in my head, because at that fleeting moment, no clear alternative jumped out at me. I went into robot mode, commission trigger pulled . . . invoice.
I have 3 daughters and my oldest is very impulsive. One of the discussions we have often around her impulses is “what is your head telling you?” It’s our way of getting her to listen to that voice in our head that tells us when we’re about to make a poor choice. The voice isn’t very good at telling us WHAT to do, but it’s great at telling us what NOT to do.
My voice said don’t send the invoice. And, at the same moment it failed to tell me what I should do. So I ignored it and that was bad judgement.
Did I do anything WRONG? No, per the contract, I was entitled to bill them. Did I do the RIGHT thing? NO! My client deserved more from me and they didn’t get it. I didn’t deliver on my own values and that sucks. It is no longer about the money but the relationship. I lost a client and a friend and I’m sick about it. Obviously, I have retracted the bill and don’t want them to pay, but it’s too late. The damage has been done.
We often think of the world as right and wrong, black and white. But it’s not so simple. Sometimes, you don’t have to do anything WRONG not to do what is RIGHT. The key is to listen to what you’re head is telling you. If it’s not telling you what to do, but it’s loud and clear on what NOT to do — listen! What you should do can come later.
This was a painful lesson. I’ve lost a good client and friend. And you can bet your ASS I won’t make this mistake again.