Poaching Clients, Karma, and Why You Don’t Chase Every Rabbit

You shouldn’t chase every duck either, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Mark Twain said, “a man who picks up a cat by the tail learns something that he can learn in no other way.”

As valuable as direct experience is, and as important as it is to learn from your mistakes, it’s even better to learn from others’ mistakes.

Picking up a new client who’s dumped his last AV contractor can be dangerous.

That’s something that you should find out right away as part of your initial needs assessment. Unless a client has clear, provable material reasons for abandoning his previous contractor that should be a HUGE red flag.

Never forget, a client who walks away from a project to work with you is just as likely to walk away from you, and leave you holding the bag.

I never get tired of this story. It just perfectly encapsulates this principle.

Years ago, a dealer I know took on a large residential project for a high net worth individual. The client is well known as a local magnate, and also for being kind of a jerk. As a result, the dealer was reluctant to take on the job, but at the time felt that it was worth their while.

They hadn’t even finished the prewire before the relationship soured. The client repeatedly asked for extras and “favours” that were well outside the scope of the original contract. The dealer principal wasn’t a pushover, so always responded with a quotation for the requested work and a reminder that they would require a signed change order, and payment for the extras.

Of course, this wasn’t the client’s expectation: they were expecting these changes for free.

Unsurprisingly, the client began to shop around, and found a young AV company with big aspirations who jumped at the chance to do business with a local “big name.” They agreed to take on the client, and the client dumped the first dealer.

The client even went so far as to try and nickel-and-dime the original dealer, looking for a pro-rated refund on their last progress payment.

The dealer principal, naturally, told him no. Other than that, he considered losing this difficult client to be a stroke of luck, and moved on to other projects.

Time passed.

The project the second dealer undertook was completed, and the client refused to pay.

The upstart, replacement dealer was stuck holding unpaid invoices totalling six figures. And it goes without saying that their client had better, more expensive lawyers than they did.

I could go on with more Inside Baseball details of this sordid tale, but long story short, that one project buried that AV company, and they closed their doors not long after.

Long ago I was advised “don’t chase every rabbit.” The reason why is that while you might catch them, you also might regret it.