Free Trial: TheSiteFactory.com

Client codependency issues - what to do?

Software. Marketing. Training. Running your business.
#1
Wiles  
Posts:
3962
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 9:42am
Location:
Bay Area – CA
We have a few different versions of this in our office. Perhaps, you do to. Here is just one example:

I have a client that has been with me for 20+ years, before I went off on my own. I have seen her go through a few life changes, including her husband's death.

She is not a pleasant woman to deal with. She is not nasty, but pushy and wants things on her terms. Our admin staff do not like her and tend to get short with her. I don't blame them.

She does not have a complicated tax return, but she makes it more complicated than it needs to be. I shouldn't be doing her tax return any more, but I am not about to give her to another staff person. That would not be fair to them and would hurt morale. This and she ONLY wants to work with me. Perhaps, I have made her dependent on me. Ugh!

Normally, I would disengage somebody like this. But... I feel obligated to see her through the rest of her life (hopefully not too long - Did I say that out loud?). I cannot imagine any other tax preparer picking her up or wanting to deal with her. She has no children (or family or friends as far as I know).

In the meantime, she wears me down but, more importantly, wears down the morale of the office.

This year, we are considering cutting 20%-30% of our 1040 clients. She should be cut. I cannot justify keeping her and cutting an otherwise perfectly good client.

Is it worth the treasures in heaven??
Last edited by Wiles on 14-Apr-2021 2:49pm, edited 1 time in total.
 

#2
Frankly  
Moderator
Posts:
2082
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 9:08am
Location:
California
I learned a lesson many, many years ago. In life there are going to be numerous people that are difficult to interact with. It could be an elementary school bully, an idiot co-worker, an oppressive boss, a surly government worker, a neighbor you'd rather not live next to, innumerable instances. You can attempt to excise these people from your life, and there will always be more to fill the void.

The best solution, the lesson I've learned, is to accept this reality, smile, and work with these people anyway. And charge an extra $50.
 

#3
CathysTaxes  
Moderator
Posts:
2675
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 9:41am
Location:
Suburb of Chicago
I would say drastically increase her fee. She sounds high maintenance. But there is nothing wrong with disengaging her. Last year I disengaged my biggest headache. I felt bad because he was with me for over 20 years but I just couldn't deal with him anymore.
Cathy
CathysTaxes
 

#4
AlexCPA  
Posts:
278
Joined:
11-Apr-2018 9:40pm
Location:
Los Angeles, CA
Honestly, and this may sound harsh, but you don't owe her anything. Just as she is free to find another tax preparer tomorrow, you can also make the choice to free yourself of this hassle.

I would disengage in a New York minute. Of all of the clients whom I've dropped in the past few years, I did not regret losing a single one of them. In fact, I was glad to replace them with more pleasant and profitable clients.
Even more of my antics may be found on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXDitB ... sMwfO19h7A
 

#5
Posts:
3863
Joined:
22-Apr-2014 3:06pm
Location:
WA State
I have one I really need to shed, but she's VERY sweet and a personal friend. If she were at ALL unpleasant, I would have dropped her years ago.
As professionals, we should have no tolerance for that kind of behavior.
~Captcook
 

#6
FLAcct  
Posts:
406
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 2:47pm
Location:
Florida
I have a similar situation - a widow. I was first hired by her husband in 1994 - he had an s corp business and several rental properties, a very successful man. He was wonderful to work with and we had a great professional relationship. He always got me the information I needed ASAP and always brought me a check when he picked up any work. Well, he died suddenly in 2006 and I have been dealing with his wife ever since. She is a total PITA - not mean, but ignores my email requests for information, pays my bills in installments even though she has tons of money, etc. I want to get rid of her so bad, but then I think of the excellent relationship I had with her husband and I get soft. Every year I debate about this...
 

#7
CathysTaxes  
Moderator
Posts:
2675
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 9:41am
Location:
Suburb of Chicago
Getting paid in installments was the straw that broke the camel's back in my previous post. I busted my butt off to do 12 months of work to get 1099s out and my fee was paid in five monthly installments. No more.
Cathy
CathysTaxes
 

#8
AlexCPA  
Posts:
278
Joined:
11-Apr-2018 9:40pm
Location:
Los Angeles, CA
I once had a client who was great to work with at one point, who then gradually became more unpleasant, and then one day she decided to end a phone call by hanging up on me. That was it -- I sent the termination email and moved on to another project.

Later that day, she sent me several nasty emails with some "constructive feedback". :D

A few months later, I get a call from a new prospect -- a relative of the original client who claimed that he was referred by her. He said that she relayed wonderfully positive things about me and my work and that he wanted to engage my firm for tax preparation. He also mentioned that she was always difficult to work with and was generally not liked even by other members of her family. This referral turned out to be great and we got along splendidly.

Fast forward a few months -- the original client emails me asking if we could possibly work together again even though I "fired" her. I politely declined.

At the end of the day, there are thousands of wonderful clients out there who would love to work with you. Life is too short to stress over the bad ones.
Even more of my antics may be found on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXDitB ... sMwfO19h7A
 

#9
JAD  
Posts:
2458
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 8:58am
Location:
California
Wiles - I know what you are saying, treasures in heaven. You and she have been together for a long time. There is a middle ground. It's not right to just cut her loose. Perhaps send her an email saying that you want to schedule a phone call to discuss how this relationship should proceed - to give her the heads up. Then calmly and gently explain that you respect the history of the relationship, but that her manner is difficult for the office. Explain that you no longer prepare returns, and if she wants to continue in this relationship, she will have to work kindly with one of your staff. Blah Blah Blah. Give her the chance to make the change or to make the decision to leave. All you have to do is be nice while maintaining your boundary that this cannot and will not go on as it has.
 

#10
ATSMAN  
Posts:
1941
Joined:
31-May-2014 8:34pm
Location:
MA
The ONLY PIA client's that I still have and can't get rid of them are are either extended family or friends. As they say you can choose your friends but can't choose relatives.

I had the ex wife of my wife's cousin as a client even after she split with her cousin and she was paying me $50 to do a 1040 std deduction return. It took me 20 minutes so I did not mind and we chatted over a cup of coffee. Last year she and her boyfriend purchased a two family and they are renting one side. I told her that her return just got complicated because now I have to do a Sch E with allocations between her and her boyfriend and that is extra work, so I have to go up on price. She did not like that and told me she would discuss with her boyfriend and get back to me. She has NOT called for 2020 tax return yet and I am hoping she does not call me because I can see trouble ahead!

I hate to do business with family and friends :roll:
 

#11
Posts:
811
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 7:09pm
Location:
NC
Wiles wrote:We have a few different versions of this in our office. Perhaps, you do to. Here is just one example:

I have a client that has been with me for 20+ years, before I went off on my own. I have seen her go through a few life changes, including her husband's death.

She is not a pleasant woman to deal with. She is not nasty, but pushy and wants things on her terms. Our admin staff do not like her and tend to get short with her. I don't blame them.

She does not have a complicated tax return, but she makes it more complicated than it needs to be. I shouldn't be doing her tax return any more, but I am not about to give her to another staff person. That would not be fair to them and would hurt morale. This and she ONLY wants to work with me. Perhaps, I have made her dependent on me. Ugh!

Normally, I would disengage somebody like this. But... I feel obligated to see her through the rest of her life (hopefully not too long - Did I say that out loud?). I cannot imagine any other tax preparer picking her up or wanting to deal with her. She has no children (or family or friends as far as I know).

In the meantime, she wears me down but, more importantly, wears down the morale of the office.

This year, we are considering cutting 20%-30% of our 1040 clients. She should be cut. I cannot justify keeping her and cutting an otherwise perfectly good client.

Is it worth the treasures in heaven??


We sometimes think we are the end all.... if we were hit by a bus, ALL of our clients would be fine.

her treatment of my staff and your comment about her death are enough for me.

send her a letter saying you are specializing, wish her luck and move on.

I sent that letter to about 10 clients and NONE called me, I was not contacted by any new CPA etc. They will survive without us. You will benefit most.
 

#12
Posts:
3929
Joined:
4-Mar-2018 9:03pm
Location:
The Office
Wiles wrote:Perhaps, I have made her dependent on me. Ugh!


Perhaps, more accurately, you are the only tax professional that will put up with her crap. I say that with respect of course. I feel like individuals like this aren't necessarily dependent on any one person, but live in fear that those who put up with their shenanigans will one day stop.
 

#13
Posts:
689
Joined:
22-Apr-2014 12:02am
Location:
Lower 48
I remember being a young, staff accountant and did work for a lot of clients of one particular partner. He always said he would cull 10% of his clients every year. Did he? I really don't know but his point was to be vigilant and remove headaches from the practice and hopefully replace it with better clients.

I agree wholeheartedly to disengage those clients who are a problem for whatever the reason. They complain, they're abusive, they pay late, their records are a mess, they're never on time, etc.
 

#14
Beagle  
Posts:
106
Joined:
16-Jan-2020 3:15pm
Location:
Freelander
Had an investment / tax / financial planning client who is about 3 years away from early retirement. He calls me up freaking out about an ETF of his being liquidated (it was a tiny ETF will too small of assets to be profitable for the manager). It's a 3 day freakout. On day two I decided that if this is how he is while working 50 hours per week, he's going to be impossible when he's retired and bored. His wife called me to apologize and ask me to keep them but it's just not worth it.
 

#15
Posts:
1063
Joined:
24-Jan-2019 2:16pm
Location:
Honolulu
I know many of us on this board are always quick to say "off with her head!".

But I also say, "off with her head!".

You must fire at least 1 in 200 clients. This does not make you a bad person - you have a business to run and employees to shield from these things. And yourself. You say "yes" to her, you are saying "no" to others.

Don't charge extra in my opinion and experiences - it will make the behavior worse. Send the specialization letter.

But I also have 1 friend-client who is in my close circle of friends who is our worst client - and I don't know how to get rid of them. Those are the hardest.

But a non-friend? Specialization/moving on letter. Is it too much to ask and does it make you a bad person that every year you can do this with <1% of your clients? No.
 

#16
Wiles  
Posts:
3962
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 9:42am
Location:
Bay Area – CA
Thanks, everyone. I do agree that raising the price is not the solution here.

That and the decision just got easier today... One of our staff just gave their 2 weeks notice.

Frankly (Post #2)... That is very dark. We need to name that - The Frankly Paradox or The Frankly Vacuum or The Frankly Abyss. Somebody more clever than me can come up with something.
 

#17
Posts:
811
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 7:09pm
Location:
NC
ItDepends wrote:I know many of us on this board are always quick to say "off with her head!".

But I also say, "off with her head!".

You must fire at least 1 in 200 clients. This does not make you a bad person - you have a business to run and employees to shield from these things. And yourself. You say "yes" to her, you are saying "no" to others.

Don't charge extra in my opinion and experiences - it will make the behavior worse. Send the specialization letter.

But I also have 1 friend-client who is in my close circle of friends who is our worst client - and I don't know how to get rid of them. Those are the hardest.

But a non-friend? Specialization/moving on letter. Is it too much to ask and does it make you a bad person that every year you can do this with <1% of your clients? No.




Agree with all except 1 in 200. It should be closer to 1 in 20 once you get a certain mass. IVe done it for years and now my practice is humming with great high paying clients. turning people away gets easier after the first round. I also believe that most of this can be avoided by screening clients. I probably turn down 50 percent of potential clients.



When they think of us as HR Block or another of their vendors, I smell this out and learn to say no.
 

#18
Posts:
1063
Joined:
24-Jan-2019 2:16pm
Location:
Honolulu
I personally struggle with great difficulty between the pros and cons of the differences between Frankly's post #2 and SouthPark's post #17.

I often feel bad for these difficult people as I could just imagine how life must be for them to get such negative feedback from all they encounter in all of their endeavors - except for how the few people out there who try to treat them with patience like how Frankly tries to deal with it.

If I had their genes, upbringing, individualism, and environment - I would be that way too. They're just unlucky. I can't try to give them a little bit of grace?

On the other hand, I have a business to run, and, "hey train wreck, this is not your station".

What is the answer?
Last edited by ItDepends on 17-Apr-2021 7:45pm, edited 1 time in total.
 

#19
CathysTaxes  
Moderator
Posts:
2675
Joined:
21-Apr-2014 9:41am
Location:
Suburb of Chicago
I personally have way too many issues to have to deal with difficult clients. If they're slow payers, then that makes it worse. My life isn't a bowl of cherries but I don't drag others into it unless they are trying to drag me into theirs.
Cathy
CathysTaxes
 

#20
ATSMAN  
Posts:
1941
Joined:
31-May-2014 8:34pm
Location:
MA
I am a big proponent of MYOB :twisted:

It keeps me out of trouble, and I told my children to do the same 8-)
 

#21
Andrew  
Posts:
526
Joined:
21-Nov-2018 5:00pm
Location:
CA
JAD wrote:Wiles - I know what you are saying, treasures in heaven. You and she have been together for a long time. There is a middle ground. It's not right to just cut her loose. Perhaps send her an email saying that you want to schedule a phone call to discuss how this relationship should proceed - to give her the heads up. Then calmly and gently explain that you respect the history of the relationship, but that her manner is difficult for the office. Explain that you no longer prepare returns, and if she wants to continue in this relationship, she will have to work kindly with one of your staff. Blah Blah Blah. Give her the chance to make the change or to make the decision to leave. All you have to do is be nice while maintaining your boundary that this cannot and will not go on as it has.


I think this is an excellent solution for dealing with pita clients. You set the boundaries under which the relationship can continue and then let the client make the decision if they want to continue the relationship.
Not too long ago, I had a pita client. If I didn't drop everything for Mrs. Important, she wouldn't get a loan (got an email about the PPP the day before the deadline), couldn't buy a car (she would call me from the dealer, had the pen in her hand to sign the purchase or lease agreement, and needed to know right then and there if it was better to buy or lease). I felt pressured and obligated into helping her getting the PPP loan. I knew I had been used by Mrs. Important in her unstoppable drive to become a million dollar business. The signs of failed relationships were all over here books: new vendors in about every category every year. I could have said "no" to helping her with the PPP loan and I take full responsibility for saying "yes". At the time, I felt it would be equally stressful dealing with a furious Mrs. Important not getting the loan or do the work getting her the loan. Neither choice was a good one for me. I did send her an email after this saying that in the future I wouldn't be saying yes to these last minute emergencies any longer. When the next one came up, we parted ways.
 


Return to Business Operations and Development



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 16 guests