The Dental Lab Expert – can you fire a client?

Some client relationships just don't work. This month, the Dental Lab Expert, Ashley Byrne, discusses the tricky topic of how and when to fire a client and the benefits of doing so. 

Some client relationships just don’t work. This month, the Dental Lab Expert, Ashley Byrne, discusses the tricky topic of how and when to fire a client, and the benefits of doing so. 

I had to think carefully about the title for this months article, for fear of sounding arrogant or egotistical.

Clients, dentists for the most of us, are the only key to our success. They pay our wages, rent, and allow us to make profitable businesses, so in no way is this a dentist bashing article.

I would consider 99% of my clients to be outstanding practices to work with. They work with us and we share mutual success as well as mutual failures. But that is what dentistry should be.

Ultimately, we need to provide outstanding healthcare, but we also need to make a profit, and ideally have a good working relationship in that process.

Can and why you fire a client is a question asked of me on many occasions.  The simple answer is yes, you can.

The when is when you feel it’s right as a business owner.

A thorn in our side

As the vast majority of our industry is small labs, clients with large monthly bills can be the bread and butter of running a lab. But equally, those large clients can sometimes also be a thorn in our side.

Many years ago, I had a client that was regularly in my top three and often the largest bill of the month. However, they took up a lot of phone time, we had a lot of remakes, and the practice team were rude.

Also for consideration was that the bills were often between 30-60 days overdue. But on the other side, they did always get paid.

Despite this person being a core part of my business, my team started to really resent doing their work, as well as working with the practice. The relationship was going south and if I didn’t step in, I was going to start losing employees.

The decision was made with the team. We had to fire them as a client despite what they spent with us.

I wrote them a letter stating that we felt we were not good enough as a lab, we could not deliver the level of service they required, and could they please find a new lab to work with.  It was painful dropping that into the letter box but it also felt like an incredible weight was lifted off my shoulders.

The client actually apologised but the damage was done and we agreed to part company.

Will my sales fall?

They took a good chunk of my monthly sales with them, but the team were relieved – some elated. Whilst they were happy to be free, I was nervous of the lack of sales.

The following month end came and guess what? We were up on sales, and up by quite a lot.

Simply down to the lack of phone calls, remakes and adjustments, our other clients were given more time. We pushed more work through with less stress and more satisfaction.

Not one month followed where sales were less.

A valuable lesson

It was a valuable lesson for me. I should, however hard it was, have acted sooner to cut ties with this client.

Despite quality, practice teams, price, and the lab team, it has to be said that sometimes relationships just don’t work.

Focusing your teams energy with practices that align with your principles and values actually helps both parties. And both parties prosper.

One of the key things I learnt from this experience was to regularly evaluate my clients by discussing with the team. Who do we enjoy working with, how much do they spend, do they pay on time, what is their remake rate? All of these are factors.

As a result, we found several clients that seem to take up so much of our time and yet deliver almost no profit. We are in healthcare and that must always come first. But we are also in business.

A successfully run business aligned with the same type of business, brings a higher standard of healthcare and patient satisfaction with vastly less stress and pain.

Catch up with previous The Lab Expert columns:

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