Nice Clients. Naughty Clients. And Some Horror Stories With Them.Jun 4th, 2007 | By Rachit Dayal | Category: Entrepreneurship, Happiness, Motivation, Peace
This is going to be a multinational post.
I started writing it from my home in Bangalore, India. The bulk of the stuff is being written here at Bangalore Airport. and on flight SQ503. And by the time I get Internet access to publish this, I’m going to be back at the office in Singapore
Long time, no blog
It’s been a month since I last wrote a post.
It’s been almost three months since I last really blogged.
Three months since I really opened up and shared what was going on inside my life – not disguised with humor or sensationalism.
Three months since one of those, wake-up-at-4am-sweating-and-open-up-the-laptop-and-type-every-gutwrenching-word-in-my-head posts.
And part of those three months have been real good fun. At other times – the different areas of my life have been pretty damn hard.
This whole entrepreneurship thing is harder than I thought …
As I’ve often mentioned, I’ve been struggled at my business.
Not the actual tasks of delivering projects, but the big picture stuff of finding & retaining clients and growing the business like I had first dreamed of.
OK, you may be a little lost, so let me fill you in on my life …
The backstory of my struggle with work …
Around 4 months ago, I decided to stop bumming around and find some long term clients (part induced by urgency, part by a sense of adventure for trying something new).
Incidentally, that was when I lost my last “from the heart” post … that was also when I finished writing my first book …
I decided to grow the services side of my business (as opposed to consulting) … I figured I needed some REAL experience, working deep in the trenches and not just consulting at the management level.
But the kind of clients I had attracted demanded complete devotion for no money. (Of course, there were upsides to this – I got to work with some exciting companies, places where my work could make or break the company and I learnt a lot about managing relations with small companies).
But it was a grueling, tiring, stressful time. And if you’ve known me for a while … you know that I shape my life around calm and a stress-free lifestyle.
This one client took over my life …
In particular, I had this one company that I’d worked with … I literally worked full time … lived on peanuts … and did my best to turn that business around. The business was sinking. They had run through several hundred thousand dollars of funding trying different things. They had changed directions many times.
So when the CEO called me in, it was time to make-or-break the company. I didn’t blame them for the situation – they were creative people and they were spending money being creative.
But we disagreed on EVERYTHING! That company’s CEO is an artist, I am a marketer … and we were both passionate in our ways of building a business.
The work was really involving. We would talk on the phone several times a day. I’ve counted an average of 25 emails a day floating on different topics in the few months I worked with them. And when I was working with them, pretty much everything … I had to put on hold.
Of course, it paid peanuts. It was definitely the lowest paid engagement I had ever taken on. First, I found the company to be really creative … so I accepted working for cheap to add this to my resume. Second, I knew they were getting a new round of funding … so I was hoping that when money came, they would be able to pay me a decent amount.
Chaotic working, but great results
If you’ve ever worked in a startup … you’ll know how chaotic things are. Nothing works on plan, the company keeps changing directions and you gotto get your hands dirty in every aspect.
This company was much much worse than a typical startup. If anyone from the outside ever walked into the office, they would think that the entire team has Attention Deficit Disorder.
I did my best to bring a goal-oriented, structured working environment to the team … but after a while I realized that their crazy-headache-causing-gut-wrenching-creativity was what had gotten them so far. And so I gave in and acted crazy like everyone else.
And in some senses it worked! We got some great results (that will form a major part of my next marketing book).
To Be A Pressurized Technopreneur … Or Not To Be …
But after a while, the pressure got to me.
A few years ago, when I was considering being an entrepreneur – I had two business choices in front of me.
- I could be a hi-tech entrepreneur … start and grow a technology business … succeed or fail grandly … and cash out my millions.
- I could be a lifestyle entrepreneur … organically growing my services & consulting business … and gradually build up to earning millions each year
My heart wanted to go with option 1 … be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or the Google twosome. But my health asked me to go with option 2. To reduce the daily pressure but go for the long term fix.
And so when this opportunity came up (actually the CEO of this company wanted to spin off its exciting parts and let me be the CEO), I was reminded of my old choice.
Working with this company for a few months had shown me the potential of working in a creative, sexy, startup environment. But they had also shown me the bad sides – losing any semblance of life, having my health go bad and literally not having enough $$$ to pay rent.
I made the sad choice …
But eventually it was too much pressure. The task of literally saving a sinking high-tech startup is a really enormous one. I had decided years ago, that unless I had management control, I wouldn’t put myself through that.
So, we quit on the relationship.
Of course, quitting on it hurt like hell.
First of all, it’s a great company. If they somehow figure out how to be more structured … It’s going to be the next Google.
Second, I had worked with them for peanuts for months … in the assumption that the next round of funding would be able to pay me. The money was already committed to old loans, so that hurt.
It’s still a great company … and I hope they make it big, because the company is full of creative people. But atleast I knew these guys were really good at heart.
At least, this client was good at heart … Now let me tell you a REAL horror story …
Before this, I worked with Mr S … a real scam artist
OK, I wrestled about writing this for a long time … because this episode ended up being really ugly.
Here’s the scoop. Late last year, I met this guy. I met him through some investment circles … but in reality, I really got to know him as a Pick Up Artist.
He was a real smooth player. He ran his own networking company. He ran his own investment fund. He got laid like a rockstar. He was always effervescent, vibrant and very very active. And he did all this at the age of 23 (that’s how old I am).
Personally, he was a little too smooth talking for me. But a few months before this, I had met another extroverted, active guy named Andrew Wee. And Andrew turned out to be a real good friend. So, I figured I should stretch out of my circle and befriend new people.
This guy (let’s call him Mr S) was turning out to be a real jackass.
In fact, within a few months … he turned stalker on me. He would definitely call atleast twice a day (I don’t talk to even my closest friends or family that often).
But I said to myself – That’s what extroverted friends do. And I sucked it up and kept accepting it.
A great business opportunity arose with Mr S
After a few months, after he’d told
me a bit about his business … I learnt that he ran a networking company with over 12,000 members worldwide. And that a membership to his organization would give people private access to networking lunches, mailing list of all the members and a lot of cool stuff!
And the best part was, he had a mailing list of over 27,000 people waiting to be mailed.
At that point, I had just learnt about product launches. About anticipation and selling expensive products/memberships by launching products to verified mailing lists.
I thought this is a great opportunity to make some cash!
All I had to do was sell his membership to those people on his list who weren’t already members … and I could split the profits with him.
It started going great! Even though I was on my last dollar, I spent one month writing emails, white papers and website content for him. Everything except the actual sales letter.
You see, for the actual sales letter … I had to find out more verifiable details about his business and sell the benefits to the readers.
It’s time to find out the shocking truth about Mr S’s company …
So, I went down to his office for the umpteenth time … and I wanted to look at some of the detailed he had mentioned in the past … the 27,000 strong mailing list … the 12,000 strong membership … the $50 million venture fund …
This was the first time I was digging into the details … and he seemed more and more uncomfortable when I dug more …
Eventually, the truth I found was pretty shocking – here it was
- The networking organization was a big fat scam. It basically achieved nothing.
- 12,000 members worldwide my ass. The whole thing didn’t even have 100 members within Singapore!
- 50 million in venture funding? Yet another fact pulled out of his ass
- An easy to mail, mailing list of 27,000 people? It was nothing! He went down to networking events, took people’s business cards and then spammed them. He had about 2000 cards in all. And he planned to buy the other 25,000 from other spam artists like himself …
All fucking lies … all the assumptions which made me think that this was great deal … were now proven false. I was basically helping one of those lying, cheating, businessmen your mother warned you about.
What To Do When You Realize You’re Involved In A Scam
My first reaction when this truth started dawning on me … was shock. I couldn’t believe I was helping a real-life scam artist swindle people out of their money. Actually, I couldn’t believe that scrupulous businessmen like this even existed in Singapore!
But my second reaction was … I’m broke! If I don’t finish this project. I’ve already committed two months to it, and backing out now will cost me even more. Plus, I had a contract with Mr S stating that I would finish my half and he would share the profits.
But I didn’t really have to wrestle with this issue for long … in my mind, the decision was pretty clear. There’s no way I could ever associate myself with any kind of wrong business.
And over a Google Talk conversation, I basically told him to fuck off.
He was pissed as hell. Threatened to take legal action. But I knew that with the kind of scam he was pulling on, he’d never risk exposing himself.
Actually I was tempted to just throw his name into the public with all his wrong-doings … but I’m not that heartless. And I just wanted to get the whole thing over with.
That Wasn’t The End Of It …
After I finished my relationship with him, I learnt of something even more shocking about the scam artist.
He had registered a company in my address – without even letting me know! I get random letters from different divisions of the government – ACRA, Ministry of Manpower etc etc
And when I confronted him … he gave me this lame excuse – “Actually, I’m not allowed to register more than 5 companies on my address. So I used yours.”
Did he already had 5 other companies registered to each of his addresses (home, office1, office2)? If so, he’s an even better master scammer than I am
This whole experience with this scammer left a really bitter taste in my mouth … but it also made me think …
Are All These Problem Clients My Fault? Am I Doing Something Wrong?
Or does everyone go through the process of learning to pick good clients … ?
The truth is, I don’t know. I’m sure I could’ve done a much better job of picking good clients from bad. But I’ll give myself a break … “Picking Good Clients” wasn’t really a chapter in any business book/course I took.
How To Smell A Good Client From A Mile Away
But I have worked with some damn good clients (still working with some of them) … and for the benefit of anyone starting out, here’s how to identify a great future client from a mile away
- They don’t haggle on price. If you’re quoting reasonable rates based on industry standards, then they’ll just take your word for it.
- They tend to work in projects. As opposed to ad-hoc arrangements, they are normally OK with a planning before hand. You plan out your time for the month, and they approve it.
- They don’t demand unreasonable guarantees. Naughty clients will demand that you get paid only when sales increase. Nice clients only judge you based on the performance of your work and decide the performance standards before-hand.
What All This Means For Me In the Next Few Months
After a long chat with my parents (who urged me to get back to quantum goals and bigger growth) … I’ve decided to grow my business and look for Internet Marketing projects in the 100s of Ks.
So, that means within the next 3 months, I’ll be looking hire some talented young people to take on Internet Marketing projects … and I’ll be networking and building my reputation to attract large projects.
Give me your feedback, drop some comments here
Anyway, hope you enjoyed my stories of entrepreneurship … I use this blog as a sounding board … so I’d love to get your opinion on a few questions …
- Given if I give you a choice to work on a business … would it be a high-risk-quick-growth-business … or a low-risk-long-term-growth business?
- If you ever realized that one of your partners was a scam artist … what would you do?
- If you leave a business legacy behind, what would it be?