Legendary Hollywood producer and manager Jerry Weintraub, who once guided the careers of such stars as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, also at one time had folk crooner John Denver as a top client.
During a tour in Europe, the often moody and demanding singer angrily phoned Weintraub complaining about everything from the hotels to the food to the concert venues and demanded he fly and meet him in London.
Once there, Weintraub assured Denver everything had been straightened out.
“How? asked Denver.
“I fired Ferguson,” he replied.
“Ferguson was the guy who was responsible for arranging all this. I told him you were unhappy and so I fired him.”
That night at dinner, Denver began to experience guilt pangs over the dismissal. He told Weintraub he felt terrible, considering it was so close to Christmas and Ferguson probably had a family.
Weintraub assured him that when he returned stateside, he would look for another job in his organization for Ferguson.
In case you haven’t guessed by now, there was no Ferguson. Weintraub, notoriously quick on his feet, had simply invented him.
Now, no one expects the average CPA to be as wily as a veteran Hollywood manager when dealing with difficult clients, but you sort of get the idea.
Some, like Denver, are worth the effort, while the risk-reward ratio for others is not.
Case in point: Last week I was speaking with a client who was considering merging in a smaller firm when during the course of the 20-minute conversation, he got three email messages and a cell phone call from a single client.
I could sense the frustration in his voice and he mumbled something about the client continually complaining about the fees and their sense of entitlement that the accountant should be at their beck and call 24/7.
I learned later he put up with all that for roughly $9,000 in annual billings.
In the category of no one asked me but…I advised him to put that client on an ice floe as soon as possible. The savings in stress alone – not to mention in Pepto-Bismol tablets – would pay for itself in one month.
I don’t know if he took my advice, but perhaps after filing season it may be wise to break down your client list and see which ones are taking up an inordinate amount of time versus billings and tactfully advise them to look elsewhere for accounting services.
Trust me; your peace of mind – not to mention your stomach - will thank me.
And you won’t have to fire Ferguson.