Thankfully, Clients Can Be Difficult


“Thankfully, clients can be difficult.” 

What? Did you immediately think, “Why should I be thankful for that ! ? ! ?”

Well, let’s look at this from a distance for a moment. If all clients were as smart, resourceful, educated, logical, connected, and cooperative as you and your company, then why would they need you? And if they did need you, will you still be valuable and, in turn, still compensated the same?

Angry WomanOkay, let’s consider that even if the clients are all of the wonderful qualities I mentioned above, they may still need your help with something. Maybe it is a product, technology trends, market trends, processes, documentation requirements, compliance, contracts, negotiations, money, etc… or MAYBE NOT. And the latter situation is why we should be thankful.

Through the years, our team works to be sure we see the difficult clients as the people that ultimately create the biggest real value for our services and efforts. Maybe it is the client that is easy to get along with but with a killer problem that needs and wants our help. Perhaps the client is confused about the help they need and makes the process harder than normal but in the end is appreciative of the support and service.

There are even potential clients that will make a project’s success impossible and take that project to our competition. These projects eventually become the disasters that help others learn to appreciate those (such as you and I) that can bring success.

I bring this up because I hear many so-called “professionals” discussing, in dismay or disgust, the challenges their clients create. Does it create more effort to resolve some issues? Sure. But this is that golden, wonderful opportunity to bring extra value to the customer and your reputation. And bringing value is why ultimately we all get paid.

Do difficult people sometimes make deals or projects come apart or fail? Sure. But if you know how to manage, avoid or appropriately end a bad deal, you can avoid or limit your loss. More importantly, it is these bad behaviors (and real-life horror stories) that lead the smartest people to take the time to find you and your expertise.

Not only does this idea apply to clients, it applies within companies and for individual careers too. As a boss or an employee, you are likely paid to solve a problem the company or boss faces. Whether you build, ship, create, sell, buy, or manage a product or service, the fact someone needs you to do this job means there is a problem to be solved. Some problems will be easier than others. Some will be harder. That’s life and that’s life at work. But the challenges create the opportunities to excel above the competition (and colleagues).

You see, it is not the time we get paid for, it is the value we bring to that time. And if this were all as easy as we want our clients to see it is, then what would be our value? It might be some value, but not what it is when we help people navigate difficult waters. 

Sometimes we all get smart, informed, cooperative clients or colleagues that are easy to work with and that is great. But it is the challenging situations that allow us to show we are true professionals that can address the tough problems with a great attitude and really bring value to the table to benefit all.

So the next time you hear yourself or your team complaining about a difficult client or project, pause and appreciate that you have clients and business. Don’t whine. Be a professional, project yourself as a professional and then step up and manage that project, that client, and your image.


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.