Protecting critical client relationships

Jul 12, 2010

Let’s face it. People will come AND go. And they don’t always leave (voluntarily or otherwise) at the best time. Sometimes it really hurts! A critical client relationship may be injured or lost by a specific departure. But it need not be fatal to the organization IF you are prepared. Here are my thoughts: Build a brand vs. hiring stars with a following. The worst thing you can do (though it is tempting at times) is to build your firm through hiring stars who have a client following. It can be good when it’s good but bad when it is bad. When the star employee with a client following leaves, he or she takes their clients with them. Bad for you! Much better is to have a strong brand name that makes your phone ring regardless of who is there. And naysayers: please spare me your comments that this is impossible. It isn’t— I can assure you— even if you haven’t been able to do it yourself. Know who in your firm is talking to whom in your client organizations. A good CRM or marketing database that is used by all is a great start because it will automatically do most of this tracking for you. If you don’t know who your people are talking with in client organizations then you can’t immediately contact them the moment your key employee leaves. You don’t want to be helpless and unable to assure the clients that they are still in good hands and that all of their needs will be met. Call the client now— not later! You cannot afford to wait to send out letters when a key person leaves. You have to make personal calls and visits. And you’ve got to move fast! There is no time to waste because the departing employee isn’t going to waste any time getting on the phone to call everyone in their Outlook contact directory. Non competition agreements. There are pros and cons about non-competition agreements (i.e., non-competes), as well as many debates about their form and enforceability. But the bottom line is this: they can help you keep a departed employee from working for your clients if, for no other reason, that the employee feels he or she cannot afford to get dragged into a costly legal battle. Back up everyone with someone else in the company! Why be so vulnerable if someone leaves? You should have depth in the ranks. There should be someone else who can immediately step in to the role that the person leaving was filling and clients should have complete confidence in this person. And there should be back-up for the back-up person in case he or she leaves, too. Depth in the ranks is the best insurance against untimely departures when it comes to protecting your client relationships. Originally published 7/12/2010

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