Don’t get me wrong. I like gorillas and monkeys too, but when it comes to business, it’s smart to keep a close eye on how your gross profits are divided up amongst your client roster.
Any client that is 20% or more of your gross profits (fee + mark up) is a gorilla client. A gorilla client could be driving you bananas or they could be awesome to work with.
Either way, if you have one or more, you need to act quickly so you are back in control and your business is balanced.
- Be honest with yourself. If the majority of your work is scattered across many businesses all owned by the same company or if your work comes from different departments that all fall under one corporate umbrella – that is STILL a gorilla client.
- Take control. You decide who you work with and on what terms. Not the other way around. You’ll want to evaluate the percentage of your business the gorilla client accounts for and the working relationship you have with them. If your gorilla client treats you like dirt, belittles you, is high maintenance and there’s no turning them around, parting ways may be the solution. Or, if they are great, but just take up to much of your business composition, work on that.
How to balance the client roster and reallocate the proportion of your business your gorilla client owns:
- Gentle push back. Spend more time procuring new clients or growing your smaller ones so your billables can be more evenly distributed.
- Gradually elongate the timeline to finish projects for the gorilla client. This allows you the necessary time needed to do the above.
How to part ways if a soft firing is necessary:
- Simply state the facts. No blame, no accusations. Be straightforward with your client as to why the relationship is no longer amicable. Then offer other firms that might be a better fit for the client. Be sure to construct a well-rehearsed dialogue. One where you use the words “not a good fit anymore…” and/or “We respect your company and want it to thrive, so we offer this solution…”
- Do the bare minimum. I don’t suggest this route because eventually they will probably fire you. And that could garner bad reviews about you or your company.
A side note: If a gorilla client baits you, disrespects you or your company, or puts you in an uncompromising position. You really need to part ways as soon as possible.
- Be professional. If you feel compelled to be belligerent or uncouth with a client, take a moment and collect yourself. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner. If you are fired up, ready to reply to a harsh email, sleep on it. Reply in the morning with a level head, if you reply at all.
- Get legal professionals involved if the client has become unreasonable or if you are concerned about financial loses or how to proceed without bankrupting your business.
- And above all, your safety is the highest importance. If at any time the relationship has gone completely sideways and you’ve been threatened, call the police or get the authorities involved. I know this is rare, but it does happen.
No matter what your gorilla client situation, the faster you diagnosis the problem, the faster you can get to work rectifying it. Look at the solution over a period of time, layout all possible outcomes and talk over the problem/situation with your partner(s) or mentor(s). Then devise a plan with deadlines to balance your business. And keep key staff in the loop once your plan is developed.
The worst thing is to be surprised if your gorilla client leaves you first! Be in control and be proactive.
So tell me, how did you or how are you turning your gorilla client into a monkey?