We all like to win those big accounts especially from the big name companies. They provide a lot of revenue, they can give you a sense of security and there is also a nice nudge to our ego when a large, reputable company wants to use our services. But we have to tread very carefully.
For many businesses losing their biggest client could easily spell disaster. This might sound dramatic but I've certainly seen it happen many times and come very close myself. We need to acknowledge that it could happen and have a plan of attack to reduce the risk.
The bigger the client, the more your business resources will be tied up managing and processing their work. This can lead to other clients receiving less attention and ultimately going elsewhere for their needs.
It can also lead to a false sense of security. A pile of work is pouring in, surely it will never end? But of course one day it does and if we are not prepared for that day, it can turn ugly.
From my experience there are three important and proactive steps that we have to take that reduce the risk of being over exposed to one client. They are:
1. Never stop business developing
This is the golden rule and unfortunately the first one to get broken, especially when we have a big and exciting client directing a mountain of work our way. When we get busy we stop business development. It is vital to continue generating new business and to be thinking about new business all the time. It is also really important to make sure we are looking after our smaller clients and meeting their expectations. Leverage having the large client, use them as your main testimonial and credibility establishing resource, but spend time each week actively chasing new clients.
2. Always have a plan in place for the day your lose your biggest client
Many years ago I did lose my biggest client and I didn't have a plan of attack. One day my business was thriving, the next I had lost 80% of my monthly income (this is a good space for the very wise moral about not having all of your eggs in the one basket, another lesson I learned at the same time). I didn't have any plan of attack, so I just wandered around a little aimlessly, till the reality of the situation made me wake from my zombie like trance.
I sat down, cleared my head and developed a short-term business development plan for my business. I built in advertising, networking, direct marketing, updating promotional material, reconnecting with old clients, updating my website and more, all the things I should have been doing but I hadn't because my big client was all consuming.
Today I always have a rainy day plan ready to implement if I were to lose my biggest client. Having this plan gives me a sense of security and takes away the fear of "what if?"
3. If you do lose your biggest client, react quickly
Sure, losing that big client is tough and as a business owner the long-term ramifications can seem a little overwhelming at first. It is easy to freeze up and do nothing, or even worse, get a little depressed. What we need to do though is feel sorry for ourselves for a little while, but then implement the plan we developed earlier on regarding what to do if we lose our biggest client. Sadly I have seen way too many businesses fall apart when they lose their biggest client because they didn't have a plan to implement.
Of course it is always a good idea to keep your biggest customer happy, that way you can enjoy the benefits they bring. However you never know the fortune of these larger enterprises. They can be sold, sometimes very suddenly. The new owners might have relationships with other suppliers and you can find yourself out of the loop. Your big client might out grow you and decide to use a larger supplier themselves. Or the very worse case scenario, they might go broke and the first you know about it is a letter from the administrator.
There is a lot of uncertainty around these big client relationships. Having a smart plan of attack is a good idea and doing what you can to reduce your risk and exposure is even smarter.