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#134: What if Your Client is Fired?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 17, 2009
In a most unusual series of events, I have had two of my CEO clients fired recently. What considerations should I attend to in a case like this?

This is unusual but it is a good opportunity to show your value as a trusted advisor. Remember, your client is not the individual engagement sponsor or your contact or the person who negotiated the retainer agreement with you. It is the organization itself. That your client is no longer a part of the organization is disruptive, but your obligations to the client remain, albeit your role and the nature of your engagement may become a bit more complicated. This applies whether your client suddenly leaves of his or her own accord, is fired or dies (I have experienced each of these situations).

Whatever the nature of your engagement, it is also appropriate to expand the scope a bit to accommodate the impact of the departure of the executive. Just as any other events that occur during your engagement are usually incorporated into your scope of work (if within reason), so too does an executive's departure give you a way to better serve the organization based on your insight gained to date. As soon as is practicable, and as appropriate, (1) discuss how you plan to work with a new executive or team (maybe you would report to the board, pending a replacement being named) and (2) recommend how you would augment your services to partially compensate for the loss of the executive. Be sensitive to perceptions that you might be taking advantage of a difficult situation. If you have established a reputation of trust, your proposed offer of support should be viewed positively.

Tip: Whether inside or outside the scope of work, consider offering your services to those who are most affected by the executive’s absence. You have developed a close relationship and may be of value to the executive's family (e.g. in the case of their death), to the Board (e.g., in support of succession planning) or the replacement executive (e.g., to get up to speed). Genuine overtures of support in a situation like this could, if done with sensitivity, turn into expanded scope of your engagement.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  consultant role  goodwill 

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