Sack a Client today… It’s liberating!

You’re probably going to have to run this one by the boss first, but work with me here.

We’ve all got at least one. An annoying, self-pompous, time wasting, self-important, frustrating, arrogant, son of a b… (breathe Craig), client who makes your life hell.

Changing the brief mid process… impossible to get hold of when you need them… threatening to hold off on an offer unless you move on fees… low-balling the candidate… a high attrition rate… blaming you when a candidate doesn’t accept because of all of the above.

Why do we put ourselves through it?

fired1I’ll tell you why… The recruitment industry has been through a couple of bloody tough years! Record business failures, declining revenue, redundancies and restructures… but I don’t need to tell you that.

Unfortunately, the problem with this is that we have become afraid. Too scared to stand up to bullying clients… well stuff them I say! It’s time to break the shackles. Time to make your voice heard, and if the behaviour continues… it’s time to sack them!

I recognise that you all recruit across different industries, in different niches and with an extremely wide and diverse group of clients… the story I’m about to tell you doesn’t completely reflect your own client-base, but I recruit for the recruitment industry… so, if anything my clients should know better!

Here is my story. That was supposed to be a dramatic kind of Law & Order introduction… oh yeh… click the Law & Order sound effect below for the full effect… oh yeh… don’t forget to have your volume up when you do it, otherwise it won’t be worth it… 

A couple of years ago we were asked to pitch for a panel tender for a large (very large) global recruitment firm. The process was exhaustive and we were appointed with one other provider… pretty sweet hey? You would think so, but the trouble was, the process whereby roles were to be released to us weekly by HR never happened. The panel leaked immediately and internally hiring managers refused to work within its rules.

We struggled on…

We forged a very close relationship with the CEO and did some nice work… but then… after 2 restructures, the CEO leaving, claims of bullying, a very high attrition rate (even for our industry) and more leaks in the panel than the Iraqi Navy we received an email from a member of the internal recruitment team. Basically, we were told that to continue working with them we would need to reduce our fees on lower end roles by 25% and senior roles by 50%. We were also informed that any ‘fall offs’ would need to be refunded, as opposed to our current agreement which had the money held in credit.

We jumped up and down a bit internally… PG version… and then we calmly communicated the following 2 questions.

  1. How would we be given access to open opportunities?
  2. How many rec2recs were they committing to working with?

We didn’t receive a response… at all.

fired2At our weekly meeting we discussed the client at length. We discussed how the internal recruitment team and hiring managers have no idea what the other is doing… how I have spent the last 6 months attempting to get a meeting with the new CEO and he has point blank ignored me… how they have walked away from low margin/high volume business themselves over the past year, but are expecting us to work on low margin/low volume business with them… how their attrition rate is close to 50%… how their fees in their professional business are 25% – 58% higher than what they want us to work at with them… and the do not provide refunds for their clients…

What it boils down to is that this client doesn’t value the service we provide for them, or doesn’t value the professionals we are sourcing to join their company… or worse… both.

Makes it an easy decision in the end – doesn’t it?

We are always banging on about working smarter… not harder. So my advice is work smarter. Have some tough discussions with bad clients… and… if behaviour doesn’t change… sack them*

*But don’t forget to clear it with the boss first!

Craig Watson


4 thoughts on “Sack a Client today… It’s liberating!

  1. Lindsey Morgan - Managing Director of People Intelligence Recruitment, Sydney on Reply

    I have sacked a few clients in my time! They always seemed surprised when I did so. I have always ensured that we tell the client we are not prepared to work with them and why as opposed to just not filling their roles. In some cases they have even come back to us when they have had time to think about what we have told them. Self-respect and ethical business practises have kept us going for years

  2. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

    I think you make it sound far more dramatic than it really is.

    Recruitment agencies don’t really have clients, they have ad-hoc customers.

    They don’t fill jobs lots of times with lots of customers. In fact, the majority of everything they work on results in them not filling jobs.

    So an agency deciding to deliberately not fill some jobs has about the same effect as pissing into a lake. They may feel better, but the lake is the same as it was before.

    1. Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

      Sorry Mitch… we’ve been agreeing on most things lately, but the clients do not always have the power.
      You work with recruitment agencies training them on how to win retained business, but say ‘Recruitment agencies don’t really have clients, they have ad-hoc customers…’ If that’s your view of the relationship and recruitment agencies place in it I hope some of your ad-hoc recruitment training customers don’t read this…
      PS… The Law and Order effect was fairly dramatic… right?

      1. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

        I’m not suggesting they do, Craig.

        Plus, the retained training thing isn’t an end in itself – it’s simply a logical step in the process of turning a company from an ad-hoc customer into a real client. That’s really what that type of training is about.

        BTW..I’m defining ‘a client’ as a company that always receives a solution to whatever their problem is. That’s the same for all sectors, not just recruitment.

        I’m not suggesting that you didn’t do the right thing is refusing to work with the client you’ve mentioned here – they sound awful. All I’m suggesting is that you haven’t really sacked them because they weren’t an existing source of revenue for you.

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