I have learned one thing since taking the plunge about a year and a half ago – be prepared. While I feel a bit like a Boy Scout saying it, thriving in self-employment is a bit like surviving a night in the wilderness. Things really can change in an instant and you have to be ready for anything. We faced that issue about two months ago when we lost a major client. This was not just any client; in addition to being responsible for a substantial part of our monthly income, they were the first client Mrs. Frugal Rules got when she started nearly four years ago.
The writing had been on the wall for several months as they simply did not have the work to send our way. We were on retainer with them, so it only made sense for them to cut us loose and it’s simple math at the end of the day. However, that still did not dull the sting when she called to tell me that were about to lose them as a client. A rush of emotions flooded my mind; thoughts from ‘What are we going to do?’ to ‘Are we going to need to tap our emergency fund?’ raced through my mind. Sitting here today though, I can thankfully say we’re on the other side of it and are encouraged with how well our business is growing.
What I Wanted to Do
When I found out we were about to lose a major client there were a number of things I wanted (internally) to do:
The first emotion was to panic. How would we put food on the table next month? What would we do for the kids? There were a number of other questions that came rushing to my mind, which is natural on one level I guess. But the important thing is to not give in to the panic.
Take it Personally
After getting over the panic, I wanted to take it personally. “How could they do this to us” was a thought that ran through my mind and the fact is that they didn’t do anything to us, they just simply acted in the best interest for their business – which I’d do myself.
Try and Fix it
Maybe it’s because I’m male (and let’s face it…that’s why it is. ), but I wanted to try and fix the situation. I wanted to talk with them to see if we could negotiate a different agreement, but it was too late for that.
Why None of This Will Work When You Lose a Major Client
If you look at all those things I wanted to do after losing our major client, they’re all emotion based, in addition to reactionary. At the end of the day, business is business and you need to be able to make that separation, especially after you lose a major client. Ultimately, when you do lose a major client you need to assess the situation, figure out if anything went wrong and go on your way with a positive ending.
After a Minute, We Hustled
While we were emotional about the situation, we couldn’t sit in those feelings. We had to act. After quick reflection, it was obvious that we needed to hustle. We had to drum up new business through networking and thinking creatively about what we have to offer. After leaving our client on a positive note (which is incredibly important as you lose a client, especially in a business where everyone seems to be connected to everyone else) we did three main things:
- We networked and networked some more
- We contacted current clients to touch base to see how else we could serve their needs
- Look for freelance gigs we could take on
The simple matter of fact was that we needed to get in front of as many people as possible. We needed to give them our pitch and how we could best help meet their needs and provide value. Since our client was such a big part of our monthly income, we had absolutely no choice. On one level, it was a feeling of the rubber meeting the road and we could either work all we could to make this business go or I had to start to get serious about looking for a job elsewhere.
What I learned through this though, was that being in this place of fear and apprehension was great in terms of bringing to me grips with what we really wanted from this business. Were we going to work to grow it so we could realize our vision and goals or were we going to go slowly into the night with a whimper.
Looking back at it now, I am incredibly thankful that we lost our client as it forced us to go through this situation and return to our roots. You know what the kicker to all of this is? Over the span of the following two months we have signed several new major clients that more than made up for the shortfall left by the loss of our previous client and have prospects of more to come. It’s crazy how that happens at times and we would’ve never had seen that otherwise. In fact, we couldn’t have taken on these new clients if we still had the one we lost as it’s been that big of an influx of new business.
Focus on What You Can Control
Now that I can look back at the situation of losing our client, I see again the importance of focusing on what you can control and leaving the rest alone. Whether you’re saving for retirement or paying off debt you need to focus on what you can control and it’s no different when running a business. I also see that we had allowed ourselves to get comfortable. We weren’t networking as regularly as we should’ve and we weren’t bringing on as much new work as a result. Simply put, we weren’t hustling and thus led to greater panic than what I’d normally give in to.
It’s funny how so much of life really does come down to that simple fact, controlling what you can control and not getting tripped up by the rest. I allowed myself to lose sight of that and the crazy thing is that it actually worked out better for us by losing our client as opposed to keeping them on. So, the moral of the story is always be hustlin’ regardless of what line of work you’re in and always, always be looking for opportunities, because they can be found in the strangest of places at the most opportune times.
Have you ever gone through losing a major client? How did it work out for you in the end? Have you ever had anything bad happen to turn out for the good?
Photo courtesy of: Diane Turner