Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


On losing clients

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I rarely lose an IT client.

That's more a statement of fact than a boast. I really do try to give my clients the better part of my time and attention. I listen to their needs and try to provide the best solutions for them (hey, what's an IT consultant supposed to do, anyway?). I've given up time with my family while at home and even on vacation. I do the requisite amount of shmoozing, but I don't kiss up to clients. When asked a direct question, I don't lie and don't try to evade a truthful answer. If something happened as a result of some change I made, I own up to the mistake and correct it (on my own time). I try to do the right thing by people.

So, when I happen to lose a client, I take it personally. I mean, really personally.

Sometimes, a client will leave as a result of a merger with another firm who/which already has an IT consultant. This is understandable. I try to maintain a personal relationship with these clients, and many of them continue to rely on my services for their outside (home) computing needs. We stay friends, and even socialize on occasion. They continue to refer other business to me. Should something happen with the consultant in the merged enterprise, I'm usually the first one called (and I am by no means in a hurry to take work from the other guy).

When I lose a client I've had for a long time due to some misconception (mis-perception) of my design or hardware or software approach, it's certainly more painful. In fact, when I lose a client this way who doesn't even want to discuss it with me, it cuts even more deeply.

I had a discussion with a soon-to-be-ex-client recently (the decision has been made at the upper-management level; it's just the end-of-the-line date which hasn't been set in stone). This particular member of upper management seemed to believe that due to my embracing of open standards and non-Microsoft technologies, I was somehow "holding [them] back" and "moving them in a  direction contrary to [their] industry." I was floored. They run industry-standard applications, in a mixed environment of Windows, Linux, and NetWare servers. They run Citrix Presentation Server (now XenServer) to deploy their main applications across the net and via site-to-site VPN to their remote offices. I set up SUSE Linux on their remote office desktops to lower overall maintenance costs; as Citrix is available for their Windows applications, there was simply no need to deploy Windows on the desktops there, with all of the anti-virus and anti-spyware junk that platform requires. In the office, they all run Windows. NetWare manages file & print, backup, and GroupWise.

Ah, GroupWise. Could it be, that it all comes down to my original choice of running GroupWise in their environment instead of Exchange? Silly. Clearly, they don't recall all of the issues they had when they ran Outlook on their desktops, and the disastrous impact of trashed .pst files...the stalled mail downloads...the hanging systems... Still, this was likely the cause (well, that, and the line of bull fed to them about NetWare being "old" and "obsolete" - as if a file management server running anything more than DOS could be obsolete). (In another post, I'll discuss the merits of NetWare - in spite of Novell's EOL of this venerable platform - and when and where to deploy it in 2010 and beyond.)

Yes, I'm quite bitter over this whole thing. Almost sixteen years I've been in that office on a regular basis, and not just for break & fix nonsense. I didn't even get an invitation to come in and speak with the partners first. Nice kick in the teeth for all of the missed family dinners, broken promises to my kids, sleepless nights, and interrupted vacation time.


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  1. I just want you to know that your family and I appreciate you. You work very hard, and we understand that sometimes it means sacrificing your time, that goes with the territory. As for the soon-to-be-ex-client…well, like the saying goes, one door closes and another opens. Maybe in time they’ll realize what a great consultant they lost, maybe not, but it will certainly be their loss. I love you.

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