Most Clients Are Thoroughly Decent … But Be Prepared For The Arrogant, Rude and Dishonest

by Scott Douglas

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

When Dodgy Clients Are Blighting Your Business Just Remember – Bad Behaviour Catches Up With Them In The End

PR photography of a handshake an image from a column by Scott Douglas, director of PR agency

This article by Scott Douglas first appeared in The Scotsman as part of its Scotsman 200 series to mark the newspaper's 200th anniversary.

I’VE just heard a story about a ‘businessman’ who was jailed for a particularly unpleasant fraud – and I openly fist pumped in the office.

Not to celebrate this small victory for the Scottish legal system, mind you. Nope, the satisfaction was purely because the guy was a former client and working with him years ago was a bruising experience.

As well as badmouthing our work without basis, he eventually folded his badly-run enterprise, leaving us and other creditors out of pocket.  So, learning about his long-overdue comeuppance felt like a welcome rebalancing of the karmic scales.

That got me thinking about some of the horror show clients I’ve had the misfortune to work with in business. After more than 15 years in B2B, I’ve been schooled a few times in just how badly clients can act, while putting the blame for their behaviour on you.

I’m guessing that other business people have had similar experiences, but I can’t be sure. That’s because the business community is a village. Most of us simply suck up these bad encounters and say little or nothing about them to avoid any unexpected repercussions. Instead, we resolve to learn a lesson and know better next time.

Of course, you do grow from these painful events. You become a better judge of character and, with luck, steer your business to a place where it is possible to choose the right clients and can afford to walk away from those who feel wrong.

But getting there can be difficult. Whenever I’ve been on the receiving end, at best I’ve felt stupid and gullible for being scammed or taken in. At worst, I’ve blamed myself, a bit like the battered spouse, convinced they must have done something wrong to earn the abuse heaped upon them.

The Saville Row-tailored businessman who was creating an opulent country hotel in Scotland? Surely I should never have fallen for his polished act and realised he was actually a lifelong Walter Mitty?

The entrepreneur who enjoyed extensive fruits of my company’s labour, but turned overnight from delighted client into a hostile adversary who sacked us and refused to pay the bill? For months I feared it was the result of some appalling failing on my part. No. The problems were entirely at the other end as the business went spectacularly belly up.

Jumping for joy in Edinburgh an image from a column by Scott Douglas, director of PR agencyThese are just two of the most memorable examples from my experience.  Unfortunately, in business we occasionally have to deal with clients who are unreasonable, arrogant, overbearing, rude or obvious strangers to the truth.

However, remember a few things: you’re not alone; you’re not to blame; eventually consistent and long-term unacceptable behaviour catches up with all of the bad actors.

More importantly, take the handful of bad experiences and use them to reinforce the fact that most clients are thoroughly decent, honest people, who genuinely appreciate good work and a bit of TLC.

That way, it’s all the more enjoyable when you deliver results which surprise and delight and leave your clients jumping for joy.



Scott Douglas, of public relations agency Holyrood PR in Scotland

Scott Douglas

Scott Douglas is the co-founder of the multi award-winning Holyrood PR, renowned public relations agency in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As well as providing expert PR services in Scotland and the UK, the former journalist heads a team which offers a host of other professional media services.
Those include crisis management PR, photography for business PR, affordable business video, social media campaigns and strategic content planning and delivery for businesses of all sizes.

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