September 1, 2018

Have You Ever Had To Fire A Client?

Oh sometimes this is ugly. Firing a client is ugly because it’s never about them. It’s about us. How dare I say firing a client is about you?!? Well my pretties, it’s the truth.

The first time I fired a client I had been in business less than a year. I remember it well, unfortunately because it went so badly.

This client, a Beer Distributor, had wrenched his back unloading cases of Budweiser at work. He requested massage 2x a week since his workers compensation insurance was going to cover the cost. At first I was excited because as a new therapist, I didn’t have many clients coming in 2x week. Woo hoo! Cash flow.

However, after the first month, this guy was starting to wear on my nerves. He would waltz in with his eyebrows raised, announcing “I’m here!” Looking back now I see the situation so differently. He was in pain. He may have been nervous. But at the time, all I saw was a smug lady’s man working the system to get free massages that I was now obligated to perform.

One Monday I lost it. I was changing the sheets and he walked into the room. A little surprised he wasn’t in the lobby, I said, ‘I’ll be ready for you in just a few minutes.’ He shrugged and said in a kind of entitled way, ‘I’ll just wait here.’ I finished preparing the table and told him I’d be right back to see what we were working on today. Before I made it to the front desk, I instinctively turned around and walked back to the treatment room.

Something inside me had snapped. Even though the door was wide open I knocked and said, ‘Hey, there has been a change of plans, I’m not going to be able to work with you today.’ His facial expression changed from glib and carefree to that of a spoiled child who had just been told – Sorry dear, there are no more presents.

He replied, ‘You have to see me. I have an appointment.’ Here’s where things went south. I blurted out, ‘No I don’t. I don’t have to see you. No one can make me work with you.’ 

There you have it. I was completely insensitive. I was being a bully back to this bully. I had forgotten that every person is on my table for a reason. For a reason? What reason was this client showing up? Apparently, I had this lesson to learn.

Long story short, I didn’t see the client that day.He was really pissed. Understandably so – I had an implied contract with him to give him a massage.

Because I hadn’t paid attention to the little things that were bothering me, I ruined a perfectly good client relationship. He never came back.

What I learned was that if I’m feeling uneasy about a client, I need to ask myself, what is it about this person that reminds me of me? What is my lesson? 

I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth: I’m not the best match for every client. And it’s usually apparent pretty quickly. Even though it’s not easy, I’ve found it’s best to release some clients to find a better match with another therapist. In doing so, I build a practice I love, full of clients I look forward to serving.

Lesson learned: release clients with respect allowing them to maintain their dignity. If I could say I’m sorry to that client I would. Well, I guess in essence, I just did. Namaste.

What I learned was that if I’m feeling uneasy about a client, I need to ask myself, what is it about this person that reminds me of me? What is my lesson? 

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