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  • Writer's pictureRichard Roppa

Don't Ignore the Flags That Fly in Your Client Relationships!

Have you ever felt stuck in a lousy client relationship?

If you’ve been in business longer than a week, then you likely know what it feels like to work in non-ideal client engagement. We’ve ALL been there. And, yes, although there are some very tough lessons to learn in those moments, we can prevent the fall from being too rough. It’s better to come out with a small, quickly-healing bruise rather than a deep wound and ten gnarly stitches.

Enter in The Flag System.

This powerful, yet simple system has helped me gauge client relationships from the very first interaction. Through years of struggling with not seeing a non-ideal engagement coming, I knew I had to make a change. After developing this Flag System, client engagements and services are better than they’ve ever been.

Now, we've all hear a lot about red flags. Red flags are all of the bad stuff to look out for, and, sure, that’s important, but there are two more flags to add to your toolbox: Green and Yellow.

With Green, Yellow, and Red flags in your pocket, you’ll be equipped to better gauge where this client relationship may head. Is it off to a running start, do you need to pump the brakes a little or do you need to run fast and in the opposite direction immediately?

Without a good grasp on the spectrum of possibilities when working with a new client, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of surprises. And, they won’t all come in a beautifully wrapped box with a neatly folded bow on top (trust me!).

So let's discuss, in a nutshell what Green, Yellow, and Red flags mean anyway?

  • Green = The client is a perfect fit, and we are good to go! A green flag includes such awesomeness like when a client respects your boundaries and workflows from the very beginning. Here’s an example, the client is excited to learn and use Slack instead of email or phone to communicate with you because that’s how you *ahem* I roll!

  • Yellow = Hold up! There are a few signs here telling us to slow down, pump the brakes, and set more explicit boundaries. Examples of this include a client requesting urgent help even though #ThereAreNoBookkeepingEmergencies (Right, Stacy Kildal?) or perhaps they’re wanting you to fit into their processes without considering that you’ve spent years perfecting all the best ways to manage accounting workflows. Time to have a conversation with the client and set those boundaries. A single yellow flag is not a deal-breaker, it is a signal that your prospect could benefit from a discussion on why you’re so damn good at what you do, and how your expertise can serve their business.

  • Red = Run! Seriously, run. Fast. And, don’t look back! DO NOT look back!! Save the red flags for the worst scenarios you encounter. Ever had a prospect call and suddenly they’re making racist remarks or maybe they’re extremely aggressive and angry? Pull that metaphorical Red Flag out of your middle desk drawer, and for goodness sake’s, just RUN!!!!

In using this 3-flag system, I’ve been able to vet new clients so much better than before. Remember, you NEVER have to take on every client that reaches out to you, and it’s perfectly okay not to be a good fit and to tell them so.

Taking on a client that’s not a match for your business’ culture, your personality, and your needs can cause a lot of lost time (aka lost revenue), stress, and grief on your part.

A lousy work relationship is simply NOT worth it. Your firm is YOUR business. You’re the boss.

On the other hand, a good work relationship is worth its weight in gold. You’ll feel happy to start work every day with clients you enjoy, and that appreciate you.

Fulfillment at work is something we all deserve, all the time.

I will dive deeper into each flag in the following blogs in this series. I will discuss what they mean, and how to use them. We’ll talk about the different scenarios you’ll likely encounter and how to see them coming.

Share on social and with your colleagues currently dealing with a bad client situation. Let’s get the conversation started and run our businesses exactly how we want to run them!

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