I've Had to Much to Think Today

Today I fired a client. It's never a pleasant experience seeing all that potential go away - not so much the money, but the potential of the partnership - what we could have brought to the table to help move their business forward beyond what the original contract outlined in tactical implementation. Sometimes they just don't understand. Sometimes the business ethos just doesn't match up. Fair enough.

Today it was about being forced into working with a supplier who we warned wouldn't deliver and inevitably didn't. Clearly it's not appropriate to go into details but it brings up the question whether the recommendations we make to clients are taken seriously. Are pre-existing relationships with suppliers worth more than with a design partner even if the party in question is not providing products and services in the best interest of the client? Even if we clearly reveal this to the client? In this case, apparently not.

I like to think our firm and designers in general are honest to a fault. We go well beyond the budget and expectations of the client to deliver what we genuinely think is the best for them. I like to think we work with the best suppliers who continually show a commitment to quality and integrity. Today my integrity was questioned. The worst part of it is that the reason it was questioned was because of a supplier who appears to have a lack of it. Ok, this is sounding like a rant and granted I'm pretty emotional right now - tomorrow I'll read this over with a more objective mind - but like a great song, the best writing is done in the heat of passion.

We've fired clients before, and for much much larger bottom lines than this client offered - in fact, ironically, our contract with this client is finished, we were only currently providing supplier coordination - but in those other cases it was always more about the working relationship never about integrity, and when my integrity is questioned my hackles get up. What happened between the mutually agreed great work we did during the discovery and branding strategy process through creative and implementation only to be derailed in deployment? Did we not do our job building trust and aligning our committment to quality? Did we not listen? Did we not want to hear? Clearly a pre-existing relationship with a substandard supplier happened. A disconnect on the desired quality of the final product happened. The final product? Fuck! What have we spent the last four months pouring our heart and soul into? Is a few cents on a business card (ex) going to cause all this hard work to fall apart? Apparently so. Business ethos. Clearly we aren't aligned in our vision of what defines a successful company. Quality, commitment and service. I'm ashamed I didn't see it coming because I thought I was a much better judge of character than what became painfully clear today. But you never know, do you?

I must say, in 23 years in the business I've never experienced this situation. Maybe I'm lucky, maybe naive. Regardless, we have one less client on our project list, and I'm glad. I'm too old for this shit. If the vision doesn't align, the door will open and my boot will be planted firmly on their ass.

If there's anything I can take away from this, and one always has to see something positive and keep learning, it's that I've learned to find out earlier on in a client relationship where their alliances lie. Do those relationships mesh with what we stand for as a firm? Will they cause stress further into the project, and will they jeopardize the ultimate outcome? It's too late for this relationship but I can prevent this situation from happening again in the future. I truly wish them the best of luck. Both of them. Together.

Comments
(6 years ago)
Just a follow up to this 2011 post. Today is June 18, 2013 and if you like Ion (and me) you'll be pleased to know that after six and a half bloody hours at the courthouse, Ion earned a judgement against this client (who will remain nameless). While it is a beautiful thing, I expected to feel a LOT better than I do.

We've never had a small claims case go all the way to trial, so obviously I expected euphoria but it just never happened.

In his judgement, hiz honour reinforced my assertion that the printer, Bond Repro (yes I'm outing them because if you dig, it's now in the public domain) had screwed us both. He said he wished that they were before him so he could throw the book at them :) He also encouraged our client to sue their ass and that he would support them all the way. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen given their relationship.

So there you go. An win for the good guys. The a-holes are still out there doing what they do.

Maggie(5 years ago)
Hi, David,
I've met you very briefly thought my sister back then shared a pottery studio with your wife more than 20 yrs ago. Me and my family moved to Gibsons five years ago and finally stop communing last month. I still look you up from these days when time needed a forward thinking individual likes you in our society. Anyway, the Sechelt project! I am hundred percent on your side and with your permission. I would like to shared your open letter to my creative networks on the sunshine coast.

David(5 years ago)
For sure Maggie! Are you Sherry's sister?

I love Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast - having grown up in Horseshoe Bay with a boat I spent a ton of time around Gibsons and Keats Island. It's always been a dream to buy a vacation property there. This made what happened in Sechelt even more painful as we were so proud of the work. For it to get tossed out without ever being given a chance to be implemented was extremely disappointing to our firm and to me on a personal level.

Let me know if you need anything in your efforts (visuals etc.).

D

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