Never work with anyone who gives you a headache or a stomachache is my personal motto. And it’s a great New Year’s resolution, especially for business owners.
Toxic people make you crazy. They jangle your nerves and sap your energy. We think we have to put up with them because they pay us, but they actually hamper our success. Clearing toxic clients and customers out of our lives makes room for great, new business relationships.
So, how do you get toxic people out of your life in 2011?
1. Review all your accounts and list everyone who owes you money.
Send a letter (not an email) requesting payment in full. If you think they can pay up, offer a discount on the balance owed and a payment plan. If they don’t respond with a check or phone call within three days, write off the loss and move on. Customers who don’t pay their bill are not good customers. They are bad people taking advantage of your good will.
2. Make a list of the clients or customers who aggravate you and your staff.
Start tracking how much time you spend every day, week or month dealing with their phone calls and emails. I’m not referring to customers who have a legitimate problem or concern with a delivery, product or service. I’m talking about the whiny, unhappy people who get on your nerves, no matter what you do. Be brave. Tell them you’ve realized that you can’t provide the service they require. Refer them to another company or provide another source whatever they buy from you. Then celebrate. Now, you can spend more time seeking out great new customers.
3. Send your customers and clients a letter or email outlining your 2011 credit granting policy, which includes collecting a deposit.
If you don’t accept credit cards, apply for a merchant credit card account. The processing fees are well worth it if it means being paid promptly. Your new policy should include requiring a deposit. It doesn’t matter what you do. Good customers will not have a problem paying a deposit to a consultant, a graphic designer, stylist or contractor. I require a 50 percent deposit to book a speaking engagement. I recently met a harpist who charges a 30 percent deposit to book an engagement.
4. Once you’ve eliminated the toxic people, you can now devote at least an hour a day to marketing your business.
Attend a networking event. Create a discount coupon promotion or some sort of cross-promotion with a compatible business. Don’t be shy about asking your best customers to refer new customers to you. Show your appreciation for the great customers in your life by asking if you can post their photos and testimonials on your website or office wall. Offer them a ‘best customer’ discount and send them a gift for referring new business.
I promise that eliminating all the toxic people in your life will make room for all the good people.
Jane Applegate is president of The Applegate Group Inc., which provides strategic marketing and video production services to big and small companies. She’s the author of four books on entrepreneurship, including 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published by John Wiley & Sons. For more information, visit: www.theapplegategroup.com. You can follow Jane on Twitter @janewapplegate.