Caught in the Undertow

Lessons Learned from Losing a Client

By Published on .

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
I suppose it was inevitable. The economy compromised one of our clients for the first time this week. Not surprisingly, it was in the automotive category. The automotive "boat" is taking on more and more water every day; for us, massive cuts led to the casualty.

Losing a client isn't exactly the end of the world. When we decided to put the shingle up, we knew what we were getting into. It's a fluid business, but losing any client is an emotional experience, and it's difficult not to be affected by the immediate aftermath. What made this one sting is the fact that we really enjoyed working with the client. They trusted us and valued our input across the board. The silver lining here is that, when things turn around, it's likely we will re-engage with them.

I was once told that to have a successful agency, especially one that works with local clients, you want automotive in the portfolio. I think that's true to some extent, but having some diversity and a solid development plan helps to smooth away any bumps. That said, with the market realities we face today, it's important to maintain an open frame of mind. If we react too strongly, we could lose focus on our short- and long-term goals. If we're not somewhat flexible, we could miss an opportunity. There is such a delicate balance for a microagency during a recession, especially one that is still very young and cutting its teeth. We want to be aggressive but need to protect the turf we've worked so hard to earn.

There's a personal twist in all of this: My wife and I are expecting our first child in a few months. Sure, there was a little moment of panic when we got the word from our client this week. But it was quickly replaced with what I hope is some proper perspective. Work will always be just that, work. And in some cases, it will come and go. But what's going to happen soon for our family is far more important and exciting.

My best guess is that making wholesale changes at this point is probably the worst thing we could do.
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