I have worked with many entrepreneurs for over 10 years now. And I have come to see a trend that many of us seem to believe grows our businesses while in actual fact, it may cause a lot more harm than good to our growing enterprises. I have occasionally fallen prey to this trend myself. That trend is that for some reason, many entrepreneurs strongly believe that killing yourself to have that big brand company as a client is good for growing a small business.
Naive entrepreneurs believe that having that big brand company, that posts billions in profits yet pays you 120 days later, will add untold value to their growing companies even if the relationship with that big brand company or organisation is loss making. We believe that this abusive relationship we give into will attract all those another big brand clients (possibly future unprofitable clients as well) and make them come to us because we already have that one signature name client on our company profiles under the “Our happy clients” page or tab on our websites. It’s a hard belief to shake off that can cause a vicious cycle in your business and the pain and cost of maintaining such clients as you grow only becomes worse. It takes a long time to learn this hard lesson, that such clients are really not worth the effort we put in to maintain them.
I have also come to believe that there are some senior executives in big brand companies who know this little fact about entrepreneurs and milk our efforts for as long as they can. They know that you can’t take them to court because you don’t have the money to hire lawyers and yet they have an entire contingent of legal officers hired to deal with the likes of you, should you dare to take them to court. They know they can bully you, they can call the shots, they can milk every drop of energy from you, they can make you bend backwards and make you pull stunts that no big company would dare do for them.They can keep dangling a fictitious carrot that they will give you bigger business in future, or if necessary, they can bring out a big stick with threats of taking away the business from you if you don’t play ball. They can make you go the extra mile,usuall 1000 miles. And then when you have learnt your lesson and they are done with you, they move to the next naive entrepreneur and begin the cycle again.
The bitter truth is, they create an illusion of success for you. The brand building value they give your company is way less than the headaches they cause you in making you chase for payments that come very late. They make you incur financing costs from overdrafts, penalties and loans. They have no idea the trouble you go through to manage very many unhappy employees that you have hired to deliver on the project that you are working on to keep that big brand bully client happy, and you are unable to pay them on time because of the late payments you are receiving. And finally, the health challenges related to the constant stress you face because of solving the above problems drive your productivity downwards.
It is not worth it. It’s even worse when that client posts their profits publicly at the end of the financial year and you see your unpaid invoices, constituting a tiny proportion of their profits, contributing to the billions that they brag about, with that bully executive taking home huge bonuses as you go back to negotiate with your bank manager not to repossess your car or house. You know that you are the reason they post such a hefty profit. You and another 1000 naive entrepreneurs. We need a law to protect SMEs in this country from these big bullies.
You are better off working with that unknown client who values the work that you do, pays you on time and refers you to other similarly small but valuable clients who are willing to grow with you as you work your way up the food chain. When you build a steady stream of small but respectable clients, your business undergoes an organic growth that enables you to make wise decisions at each growth stage, helping you to conserve the little money that you are making and enabling you to only invest in something that is extremely necessary for your growth.
Entrepreneurs, be brave and cut off that big unprofitable client.