Business Management – Dealing with people who take advantage of you

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This is another installment of my Business Management posts, geared towards those of us who are business owners and/or consultants.

Sometimes, you will run into someone, a client, an organization, another business, who will try and take advantage of you. The first time this happens, you won’t be prepared for it, but you need to be.

As you know, my business provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. I offer a full range of technology services and solutions, from network support to desktop computer sales. Anything technology related, either my company can provide or we know where to go. I’ll give you a real life story that happened to me several days ago.

Some background first though, about 6 months ago we had a potential client contact us asking about our services. This was done via e-mail, so I went back and forth with this person, answering their lengthy questions. I continuously offered our free, no obligation on-site network assessment. This was never responded to, instead I received more detailed questions requiring detailed answers. In the end, my last e-mail was never returned. 2 months ago, that same potential client called and asked for the free, no obligation on-site network assessment. I brought along another technician with me, and I spent an hour doing an assessment of their systems. What had happened was several days earlier, their server had failed and they had no working backup of the data. I prepared the assessment document and gave a quotation on how much it would cost to purchase and deploy a new server. This was submitted, and a day later I was called back in, as the potential client had some questions about the assessment. I spent another hour explaining everything from top to bottom. After that, I attempted to follow-up twice, but never heard back.

Fast forward to several days ago. I was waiting in line at the bank to deposit some cheques. I get a tap on the shoulder, and I turn around to see the previously mentioned potential client standing there. I said hello and asked how he was doing. He responded by saying that he was meaning to get in touch with me. He had purchased a server and kind of got it working, but was having some issues and was wondering if I could come take a look at them. I said sure, no problem, I can swing by tomorrow first thing. He asked how much my hourly rate was again. I stated my standard, hourly rate. He then said something that I’m still shaking my head at. He said “oh, right, that’s why I didn’t hire you in the first place. I can’t believe you’re charging THAT MUCH for computer help”. Now to put this into context for you, I charge 30% less than my closest competitor. I charge far, far less than the industry standard in my area. Why ? I’ve found ways to cut costs in other ways, and pass those savings along to clients. But we’ll get into that in a different post. Anyways, now I’m irritated. I’ve spent several hours already on this person, and now they’re basically telling me that I’m too expensive for them (by the way, again for context, this happened to be a licensed professional, not someone who simply couldn’t afford to pay what I was quoting). So I replied with the first thing that came into my head. “Now the rate is $x because you’ve insulted me”. I pushed the rate up by $30.00 an hour. His jaw nearly hit the floor and he stammered a few words out before walking away, telling me that I’m a crappy business person and I won’t be around very long. Now, interestingly, the other people in line with me at the bank actually made a point of telling me ‘good job’, because they found this potential client’s behavior quite rude.

Essentially, this potential client was trying to take advantage of me and my business. He took my free assessment, purchased his own server (I’m assuming using my recommendations as a guideline), and then wanted me to come support it for him. I know these types of people because I’ve run into them before, and I know that even if I would have gone down there and helped him out, he would have gone back and forth with me about the billing for months.

Remember, you don’t need to take EVERY client out there. Some clients aren’t worth your time, and some will cause you more headache than they’re worth. Focus on providing good service at a good rate, and take clients who appreciate that, not ones who will still try and take advantage of you.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark D July 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Like this. Great advice.

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