Difference between clients customers and clowns

How Clients are different to Customers and can they become Clowns is a case study worth understanding. It’s a story illustrating how consultants can find themselves drawn into circumstances they’d rather avoid but somehow can’t. Business can often work out to be much tougher than it should be, simply because the other guys are idiots. Here’s what’s happened to us recently.

In our consulting business we built a relationship with a local software company. The CEO was an intelligent but fallible man with great ideas but no backbone. His partner was the sort of intellectual who didn’t want to be measured but insisted on heading Sales. This is a combination made in hell, but we got drawn into it without really understanding the background.

Merely proposing different ways to do things wasn’t going to work. Neither were capable of learning or changing. They were actually clowns in their own business, in terms of sales and marketing. So we proposed they become partners. We would do the work and share in the value – a proper business partnership.

The client turned partner really liked this idea (until the value sharing kicked in) but the deal turned very bad for us. These guys were incapable of delivering what we sold. At this point the Partners turned into clowns.

So we then proposed they become customers. We’d won a particularly interesting project for them which needed business development as a deliverable from them. They weren’t capable to fill the role so we offered to do it for them.

Subsequently the two employed a general manager who ultimately decided he would like the project for himself, despite knowing nothing about the requirement or how to deliver on it. And he decided to cancel our contract, taking on the role himself, after we’d done most of the work.

Incapable of reading contracts with the ultimate customer, or us he ploughed ahead and screwed everything up. He was the ultimate clown, preferring to torpedo the project just so he could be in charge.

Now he has a legal action from us coming down the track and is in serious breach of contract with a party much bigger, and demanding than he realises, but being a clown has no idea of the damage he’s done.

We did everything possible to avoid the project going pear shaped but failed because a client turned into a partner who turned into a customer who turned into a clown.

I guess that’s what life is like as a consultant these days.

Where did we go wrong?

Would you have done it differently?

C’est la vie. Next time we’ll do a better job for ourselves.

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One Response to Difference between clients customers and clowns

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Difference between clients customers and clowns | Front Office Box | Avantrasara -- Topsy.com

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