Wrong. Better is better.

Have you ever sacked a client? I have. It’s not something I make a habit of, and I have to be really sure before taking such a radical step. Somebody I know has far fewer reservations. She has a regular client cull, taking the ‘toxic clients’ (her words) and the ‘crazy-makers’ (ouch) and unceremoniously dumping them. Then she looks for new clients. For her, more clients don’t mean more business. Better clients mean more business. So that’s who she looks for.

Do the maths

If it’s true that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients, why not sack the other 80% and head for the beach? A few years back, I was at a friend’s house for dinner. He ran a very successful recruitment consultancy from home. Just him and a friend, a phone line and two PCs. They started work late and left early. They made lots of money. “So who are your top three clients?” I asked over the strawberry crumble. His fork hovered mid-way between his plate and mouth. “OK,” I said, sensing his hesitation. “Just guess.” And he did. So of course, post-coffee, we headed for his office. Thirty minutes and one slick little spreadsheet later, I ran the numbers. And guess what? He was wrong. Very wrong.

Do Less

I thought of my friend recently when I read Seth Godin’s manifesto on changethis.com. It’s a delightfully short presentation with a simple message: don’t do more. Do less. But do it better. So what did my friend do? He got more better clients, right? Wrong (again). He moved out of his home to plush offices, with a top-of-the range telephone system, trendy furniture, a powerful server, eight workstations and a scary receptionist. Then he started hiring staff. Now, thanks to rent, basic staff salaries and other running costs, he has huge overheads. Plus, he has to get the bus to work because there’s nowhere to park. He’s got lots more clients, and is frantically busy. Recently spoke to him. How’s it all going, I wondered. He says he’s never worked so hard for so little – he has to run just to stand still, he told me. So more is actually less. Why am I not surprised? Find out more:
  • Seth Godin’s Do Less manifesto at changethis.com