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Business Lessons From A Bitch

May 31, 2015
Zoey dog


Five days ago, Laurel and I brought home an eight-month-old puppy named Zoey. We’re currently fostering her and, if things go well, we’ll adopt her permanently.

Things are not going well so far.

Zoey is a very sweet, good-natured dog. She’s doing her best in a new situation, but to characterize her as “needy” would be an understatement.

She wants to be around one of us all the time.

When we’re not in the same room that she is, she whines. Constantly.

And we can’t always be in the same room she is because we have to work.

This means we’re not the best match for each other. She’s not happy and the work we do is affected by the excessive noise she names. Podcast episodes, writing, and phone conversations are all affected.

You May Have A Similar Problem…

We’ve all got customers similar to Zoey. They’re not bad people, but they take more than their fair share of resources.

So what’s the solution to this problem? Train them like a codependent dog. This means…

1. Don’t Baby Them 

Seriously. Stop treating clients like little kids who can’t dress themselves.

There is a fine line between clients who need you and those who can’t live without you. Dependency is great if you’re selling something designed for that, like cigarettes or drugs. But it’s a reach bitch when you can’t “make more” of what you provide by simply running the assembly line a little longer.

If you’re providing a service as part of your business, needy customers will sink you. This is why Sprint fired a bunch of needy customers with a letter like this…

Our records indicate that over the past year, we have received frequent calls from you regarding your billing or other general account information. While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs.

Therefore after careful consideration, the decision has been made to terminate your wireless service agreement effective July 30.

Extreme? Yes. But if needy customers are keeping you from working with good customers, do you really have a choice?

2. Become Less Valuable 

Zoey likes being around both people and other dogs, not just us, so outsourcing the job of “being around” is an option. Unfortunately though, the other dog we hoped would help with this doesn’t like her in his space.

Outsourcing the situation to somebody else can be a great solution to difficult people. But what happens if, like us, you’re not able to outsource to somebody in-house?

That brings the conversation back to, “We might not be the best match for you.”

It sucks. You want to serve your clients, just like we want to provide a great home for this dog. How much can you force something though? How much can you ask current clients to hold on while you figure out something that should’t affect them?

Can you live with all the sacrifices you’ll have to make and how everything else will be affected because of your decision to stick things out?

3. Ignore Attention-Seeking Behavior 

Zoey came from a loving, “no kill” rescue where she had some good basic training. She knows basic commands and she’s housebroken.

So why do I keep finding dog turds everywhere?

Because it gets her attention. The same way calling about billing disputes month after month gets Sprint customers attention.

The Final Word



It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to chalk this up and say you’ll make the best of it” but keep in mind that decisions like this aren’t just about you, they’re about the people you’re already serving as well.

For us, the biggest issue with Zoey is our other dog, Samba. He’s great with her when they’re both outside, but once she comes in the house, he  instantly gets aggressive.

If you have a nagging customers who are affecting you ability to serve the people you’ve already committed to, you really have no choice but to drop them.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, because our dogs couldn’t get along inside the house, we had no choice but to not go through with a full adoption of Zoey. She’s currently in another foster home waiting to be adopted.

Do I feel like an asshole? Yes. Letting go of something you had huge hope for is never easy and it can really hurt when your decision affects somebody else. But we weren’t being fair to Zoey to keep her in a home with an aggressive dog that didn’t want her there. If you feel bad about dropping somebody, just remember that it’s not helping anybody for you to keep working with a customer who would be served better elsewhere.

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