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Consulting and Customer Service

Resigning An Account

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One of my friends who runs a well-respected Denver public relations firm has had to "fire" some of his clients. He told me he never tells a problem-client it's their fault. Instead, he says, "I find another reason for parting company—that they need another perspective, for example. It's never their fault." I agree with his advice. I try not to blame clients we can no longer serve effectively.

In this case, though, it was important to let a job candidate know the rationale for our decision to stop working with him. Before mailing this letter, we explained the circumstances to our corporate client, the company that had hired us on Peter's behalf. They agreed fully with our decision to withdraw. This letter was sent certified mail with return receipt.

Dear Peter,  

The purpose of this letter is to end our relationship as outplacement consultants to you.  As of today, your work with us is completed.

We first met at the IBM facility in Boulder on May 8th at the time of your job severance and have been meeting weekly since then.  As your outplacement consultant, my objectives for you throughout this time has been to provide you with help and support as you begin to focus your energies on finding another employment opportunity.

To that end, on May 11th we mutually agreed that you would start the process by completing standard career assessment instruments that might give us both an insight into the kinds of positions and companies that we might expect could lead to future job satisfaction.  Those instruments took you three weeks to complete.  At the same time we started a process of reviewing and updating your resume, developing mailing lists of companies and acquaintances and formulating cover letters, so that we could contact as many people as possible as we started your job search.

Throughout this process, our association has become increasingly stressful for both of us.  You have chosen to challenge my professionalism, competence, personal integrity and motives by finding fault in everything that I have said or items that I have delivered.  Your criticisms have resulted in rewriting your resume several times because you would not accept the concept of developing a rough draft, agreeing to necessary changes and completing a final document.  In your words, "everything you do should be a final product." All of this led to spending far more time than necessary in just helping you get ready to conduct a job search.

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William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.