UnknownWinter is like a Difficult Client

Anyone who knows me knows that I despise winter. I look at it as the season to “get through.” I know that I should embrace it more, perhaps take up skiing in my old age or build a snowman. But no thanks. Let’s just find a way to get to April without thinking too much of it.

The one good thing about winter – yes, there is one – is that when it is on the verge of ending, I feel an amazing rush of excitement. Witness yesterday when the temperature soared to an amazing 43 degrees and I headed straight for the park for a five mile jaunt to enjoy the “warmth” and sunshine. I was there with about a million of my best friends, including folks in t-shirts and shorts (really?) and one guy who was shirtless (perhaps taking it a bit far).

It got me to thinking that getting through winter is like getting through a tough project or managing a painful client. I think I use all the same coping mechanisms.

Every client looks pretty upon first look. Just like the ground in a new-fallen snow everything is perfectly beautiful and serene when you first engage with a new client. But knowing what is underneath that cover is what separates the good client from the nightmare. So do your due diligence and know whether the ground underneath that new fallen snow is a sheet of ice or your new client is hiding secrets that will come out in the media to everyone’s surprise.

The storm is coming. You can bet on it. Even the most serene scene can be turned into a blizzard in a split second of time. And every client can face a crisis of epic proportions without notice. That’s why being prepared is so important, whether it’s with salt and a good shovel or a well thought out crisis communications plan.

It will be over soon – won’t it? Of course it will and so will any tough situation facing any client. The key is to compartmentalize the timeframe in a series of “must get throughs” using solid strategic tactics to mitigate the pain. With winter, I focus on milestones – college basketball season eats up a lot of that time and well timed weekends away help as well. For clients facing a crisis, it is all about making sure that you are using the right strategies to reach certain measures of success along the way and ultimately achieve long-term goals of mitigating whatever crisis the client is facing.

Sometimes it is best to just cut and run. When winter has consumed the last positive thought I have, that weekend away automatically moves to Florida or the Caribbean, budget be damned. And when a client is causing more pain than pleasure, it’s time to take the same approach and part ways. Firing an impossible client is never an easy thing for an entrepreneur but in every case has been the exact right move.

Bring on the sunshine and the clients who love us.