Are You Tolerating Flakes?

If you run your own business (like me), you may suffer an all-too-common occupational hazard: FLAKES!

I’m talking about people who miss meetings, don’t return calls, don’t pay bills on time, and don’t do what they promise.

It would be wonderful if everyone acted with integrity all the time, but I believe that occurs only in an “alternative universe.”

When I began writing this article, I wanted to declare “all-out war” on flakey behavior–that is, a no-tolerance policy. But the truth is: most of us flake out from time to time. We forget an appointment, we miss a meeting because we entered the wrong time in our smart phone, we get busy and forget to return a call, we inadvertently miss a payment or deadline. We all make mistakes.

However, there’s a difference between someone with integrity who commits an occasional honest mistake or oversight, and someone who just doesn’t have his act (or integrity) together. It’s important for people who run their own business to recognize the difference, because flakes consume our time, our energy, and frequently, our money.

How do you recognize a “true flake?” You can usually tell by a pattern of flakey behavior. Some people may have great intentions or talk a good game, but they lack consistency, organization, integrity, or an appreciation of your time. You can also tell by monitoring your own emotions about someone. If you find yourself repeatedly anticipating that a particular client won’t follow through, or if you’re constantly irritated with him about his lack of responsiveness, chances are, he’s a flake.

In my book, most flakes aren’t worth the effort. But there are some that are, especially if you can “re-train” them.

What do you do about a flakey client? It depends. You have to make the judgement on a case-by-case basis. One thing you can do is unemotionally point out the specific “transgressions” and ask the person to show up on time, return your calls in a timely manner, etc. Or you can institute a business policy, such as charging for missed meetings unless you receive 24-hour notice.

Some flakes seem to believe that just because they pay you for your services, that they own you and can treat you however they like. Remember: If it’s your business, YOU get to decide who to work with and what to tolerate.

I’ve coached many businesses on what to do about flakey clients and employees (contact me if you need help). I recently worked with one of my clients to go through a list of his flakey or difficult clients and decide what to do about each of them. He decided to fire several of his clients. Though it was challenging for him, he felt much better once he had taken action. It was like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

One more thing: You can sometimes tell that someone is going to be a flake or a difficult client even before you actually bring them on. I suggest you carefully consider whether it’s worth the effort. See my previous blog post on PITACS (pain-in-the-ass clients).

Once again, remember: If it’s your business, YOU get to decide who to work with and what to tolerate. Don’t let flakes get the best of you. Life’s too short.