How do I restore goodwill with a former client who is about to go bankrupt?
This new client met with me for a one-hour tax-planning consultation just before the end of December. I admit I wasn’t perfectly clear about how I’d charge for it – I gave my hourly billing rate but stated that my fee might be applied to the entire job rather than for just this consultation. I gave some tax and accounting advice to him and his wife. He asked if I could help with accounting and bookkeeping. I sent him an invoice for $75 a month ago. He'd said he'd pay it shortly. He didn't. The third time I e-mailed him about it last week, I asked him if he was displeased about my service in some way so I could address the problem to his satisfaction. He told me he’d probably have to go bankrupt and that I'd have to wait in line for the money like his other creditors. He said it was a waste of time for him to come to me for tax advice, that I didn't help him save money in taxes. I told him I'd cancel the $75 outstanding bill. Moreover I explained that I understood what he was going through because my wife and I were bankrupt once too. He told me not to write to him anymore. Now his wife, whom I got along great with, is in the hospital. Should I be concerned with continuing to repair the relationship with him? Perhaps I should make an effort to visit his wife in the hospital? Or would it be better to just walk away from this?
Money will come and go, but the relationships get built stronger over time. So, keeping aside the thought of loss, pay a visit. You never know he may bounce back and do well or move on to do better in some other profession, then will think of you as a natural choice.
All the best!
I'd say forget about it and move on. I don't know that client so I personally can't read him but a lot of time people KNOW they're going to file bankruptcy and try to take advantage of all they can before they do so. As far as you being a waste of his time, that was kind of a rude thing to say. It's not you're fault there wasn't some magic trick he could pull to avoid this situation. His numbers are his numbers, all you can do is look at them and tell him where he stands. In fact if it weren't for you he may not have known for sure that there was no way to wiggle out of his circumstance which gave him a heads up on what he needed to do next, which is still valuable.
If it turns out that he's a rude guy who was just using you going to see his wife in the hospital may set him off out of guilt. Sending her a nice get well card if you really must do something would be good enough. It shows you care and leaves enough distance between you two. He could just be stressed out over the situation and being reckless with his tongue saying things like "get in line with everyone else". But then if there's A LINE of people who he owes money....... that's not a good indicator towards his character with doing Business. Just send her a get well card and keep moving forwards, and don't wave the fee... let it "be in line" with everyone else's invoices, get your money.
My opinion. It's only $75. Small cost of doing to business. Write it off and move on.
I had a client that owed me $150. I messaged him maybe 5-10 times total about it. I finally wrote it off and didn't bug him. A year later I was surprised to see a check in the mail.
Bankruptcy is not fraud or dishonesty necessarily. If you like a person be there for them.
Bankruptcy is a humiliating and uncomfortable place to be in. Most people are so embarrassed, as your client clearly is, that it is easier for them to cut ties rather then having a relationship with the creditor in the future. I guess the question you have to ask yourself is why is it important to you to have a relationship with this client? And then put yourself in his shoes and figure out why he doesn't want to have one with you?
Unfortunately, in this economy there are many who have gone through a bankruptcy in one form or the other. Since you went through one yourself you can fully understand how your client feels. Saying that it seems like he is blaming you, at least in part, for his situation. The best thing to do in my opinion is to rise above his rancor, sent him a letter in an effort to repair the break. Remember; You can bring the horse to the water but you can't make him drink the water. That is up to him.
I applaud you for wanting to pursue a potential client and going the extra distance but I'm in agreement with majority of replies, you've show resiliency, professional courtesy and that you have integrity.
At this point it's best to put those traits to other prospects who are able, ready and have the ability to hire you based on your principles.
Walk away at this point. He is not in the proper frame of mind to accept your generous gesture. He will negatively misinterpret them because that is where he is at right now. Respect his request to leave him alone. You didn't have an extensive client relationship, so you haven't lost any future business. And anything you do right now will be misinterpreted.
Put your time and energy on finding an even better client.
Hi Gary . On the surface, this may not seem like a business issue. You offered to cancel the bill so that's no longer on the table. Your situation might fall under moral and character development. Part of growing as a business person is recognizing when we need to exercise higher moral judgement. If we see business relationships as just transactional, then personal growth opportunities are limited to the ledger. Only when we consider the true needs of others will we change as people. A few questions: Is it appropriate for you to contact/engage with your ex-client's wife in the hospital? Will participating in her life at this level build some aspect of your character? Sure you can cut him and his wife off, however, that's not why you posted this question is it?
I would send the wife a nice get-well card or more depending on how good a friend she is - after all she was and could still be your friend. It is not her fault the spouse acted poorly. They are two separate individuals. You mention you told him you were canceling the $75. I think you should mail a paper credit for $75 with a polite reason - such as courtesy... whatever. Just because he is unpleasant and un-business-like doesn't mean you can't show professionalism.
I'd leave the bill in as you have provided the service. I would also discontinue any conversation with the client as he has made it clear he doesn't want further services from you. I would definitely not contact his wife - you could end up being charged with harassment. Sometimes things don't work out and you move on. My view is that this is probably one of them.
Well, do you want to repair the relationship on a personal or professional level? If personal, then, yes make the effort, visit her.
If professional, then send him a letter (not an email) and let him know that when he's back on his feet that you are open to dealing with him again (if that's true). Also, since you've done the bankruptcy thing, I'd let him know that and tell him you can help him with some of the obstacles.
His callas remark makes him sound like rude person. Those in bankruptcy need all the friends they can get. The fact that he told you to scram for $75 is a clear message.
At some level, we are all experiencing the product of our own creations. Your choice is to take some responsibility for what has been created by others, or not. Depending upon your beliefs, you might like to ask God/Spirit/Source to help them, as feeling sorry for others will only bring sorrow to you as you take their energy/consciousness into your own energy field and a similar outcome then plays out for you. I've laid out the energetic dynamics at play here but, as always, the choice will be yours.
Hi Gary, The easy answer is ..walk away and move on. Best answer..the same.
I agree with James, and walk away. I myself was in the same situation, and I just walked away, and I'm glad that I did, for even today I talk to some to the clients, that this guy was servicing, and all of them where let high and dry.
Today I ask for a retainer before I start doing anything.
Well, I´m an spanish lawyer so take any sort of cultural bridge into account. As I see it you brought value to the table, he shouldn´t expect the first consultation to be free if there wasn´t additional services in line.
You dropped your invoice as a very nice gesture and he is still unfairly grumpy. If you feel like it go see her wife and just be polite if you meet him in the process but you did more than should be expected in my opinion. He´s in a bad situation and that deserves some slack to be cut but bankrupt people tends to look at others as potential lifesavers-in your case magically make the tax bill to go poof- and they have to be politely reminded the problem is theirs and you already did your part and then some.
We all learn agreements in writing protects both parties and being nice always is the right thing to do.
My contribution is that you need to select your clients as much as they select you. Myself I am too lenient, but my partner is quick to point out when a client needs to stop being our client. Somewhere in the middle we end the relationship. Your lucky this lesson cost you so little.
About your title, I would say it is the client who should be restoring good will by paying you.
Walk away, no good will come of it. Ask for an upfront commitment fee in future!
Send flowers with sincere wishes for the wife's well being and expect nothing in return. If they have an interest in repairing the relationship they'll reciprocate in some way, if not then not.