Michael Blake, a Director at Brady Ware & Company and Host of the Decision Vision podcast, interviews Jim DeBetta on how to recognize when a client might be a bad fit, why it’s best to part ways, and how to do it gracefully.
Jim DeBetta is the Founder and President of DeBetta Enterprises which specializes in coaching and consulting for inventors and consumer products start-up companies. DeBetta Enterprises also assists clients with product development and engineering of consumer products as well as sales and marketing representation to major retailers for our select clients. Recently, Jim was Vice President of Retail Distribution for TV Goods which is owned by Kevin Harrington from the ABC show Shark Tank. I headed up a team of retail specialists that called on the world’s most prestigious retailers and TV shopping networks including HSN and QVC.
Jim is the author of the top-selling book, The Business of Inventing, former Staff Writer for Inventors Digest, and has sold over 100 million dollars of products for product entrepreneurs and inventors alike. His podcast, Get Retail Ready, is a valuable resource for those just starting out or looking to scale their business.
DeBetta Enterprises has formed a solid network of product engineers, factory brokers, angel investment firms, licensing experts, and sales and marketing professionals among many other areas of expertise. The firm works with Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, and individual inventors alike. They specialize in finding factories to produce products, create pricing strategies, marketing and public relations, and selling products to major retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Michaels, Walgreens, HSN, Macy’s, Amazon, and many others.
Prior to forming DeBetta Enterprises, Jim led a successful start up company which produced sport optics such as binoculars and hand held magnifiers. Jim was President and COO as the company grew from insignificant revenue to nearly $50 million dollars in sales in under 8 years.
For more information on Jim DeBetta and DeBetta Enterprises, go to http://www.jimdebetta.com/.
Female: Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Michael Blake: Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we’ll discuss the process of decision making on a different topic rather than making recommendations because everyone’s circumstances are different. We will talk to subject matter experts about how they would recommend thinking about that decision.
Michael Blake: My name is Mike Blake, and I am your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we are recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on iTunes, and also please consider leaving a review of this podcast as well.
Michael Blake: So, today, we’re going to talk about something that doesn’t get talked about a lot, which is firing a client. And firing a client when you’re in business, and particularly, if you have a sales role is something that just seems wrong. We work so hard to get clients. Clients are not easy to get. They’re not easy to keep. And so, we’re hardwired that every client is precious. And to, a large extent, I think that’s a healthy attitude to have.
Michael Blake: When you’re not grateful for your clients, bad things happen, your business is not going to survive long. But there is a point where enough is enough. The customer isn’t always right. In fact, sometimes the customer is not the right fit, or they’re just a raving lunatic, or somewhere in between. But the thing about that process is important. If you fire the wrong client, you’ve passed up revenue for no good reason. If you fire the client badly, then your reputation is going to suffer. But if you’ve been in any business long enough, firing a client or firing customer is a fact of life.
Michael Blake: So, we’re going to talk about that today with Jim DeBetta. Jim is the Founder and President of DeBetta Enterprises, which specializes in coaching and consulting for inventors and consumer products startup companies. His firm also assists clients with product development and engineering of consumer products, as well as sales and marketing representation to major retailers for their select clients.
Michael Blake: Recently, he was Vice President of Retail Distribution for TV Goods, which is owned by Kevin Harrington from the ABC show, Shark Tank. Jim headed up a team of retail specialists that called on the world’s most prestigious retailers and TV shopping networks, including HSN and QVC.
Michael Blake: Jim is the author of the top selling book The Business of Inventing, aformer staff writer for Inventors Digest and have sold over $100 million of products for product entrepreneurs and inventors alike. Jim’s podcast, Get Retail Ready, is a valuable resource for those just starting out or looking to scale their business.
Michael Blake: His firm has formed a solid network of product engineers, factory brokers, Angel investment firms, licensing experts, and sales and marketing professionals among many other areas of expertise. They work with Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, and individual inventors alike. Jim and his team specializes in finding factories to produce products, create pricing strategies, marketing and public relations, and selling products to major retailers such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond, Michaels, Walgreens, HSN, Macy’s, Amazon, and many others.
Michael Blake: Prior to forming the DeBetta Enterprises, Jim led a successful startup company that produced support optics, such as binoculars and hand-held magnifier. He was President and Chief Operating Officer and led the company from insignificant revenue to nearly $50 million in sales in under eight years. We welcome Jim DeBetta to the program. Jim, thanks for showing up.
Jim DeBetta: Hey, thanks Mike. Good to see you again.
Michael Blake: So, it’s interesting. When I put this topic out there. I really put it out on social media. I’d like somebody to come on and talk about firing clients. And sort of you rose your hand and said that, “I really like to come on and talk about that.” What motivated you to do that? Why is that a subject that is close to your heart?
Jim DeBetta: Well, I mean, I think, in any business, but particularly my business, inventing is an emotional business. So, when people have a product, it’s not just, “Hey, I have a particular thing, I want to get out there.” But they get very tied to it because it’s like their baby. I mean, it’s something that they created out of a need or because there was a problem, and they couldn’t solve it, or couldn’t find a solution. So, they say, “Well, I got to do this on my own.” And then, they spend years developing it. And then, when they come to me, then I have to see if it’s a good fit for me. And when I saw that, I was like, “Oh, I got to jump in on this one.”
Michael Blake: I have a little of experience to that myself. As you know, I used to run a nonprofit called StartupLounge, and I’m still at a monthly office hours. And sometimes, an entrepreneur shows up, and they want to run their idea by me. And you have to tell them, “Well, I’m sure your baby’s healthy but it ain’t all that good looking.”
Michael Blake: And that is something that is not necessarily well-received from somebody that has internalized their problem or their business, I should say, the problem that they’re trying to solve, and they’ve had a lot of people cheer them along the way. So, that’s friends and family, “Go for it. That’s a great idea.” People, by the way, who lose nothing if the business fails, advisors like me that can make money if they start their business, start spending money on advisors. And there’s this feedback loop that just internalizes. And all of a sudden, you can get to a point where you think, “Wow, I’ve got the next iPhone.” It’s just that obvious. Do you encounter that as well?
Jim DeBetta: Oh yeah. And friends and family are the worst because they they love you or-
Michael Blake: They really are.
Jim DeBetta: … they’re supposed to love you, but you’ll always have that obnoxious one that will say, “Oh, that’s crappy,” or “I wouldn’t do that ever.” But most of the time, they’re going to give you support, whether it’s the product’s good or not good in their mind. And that’s what they should do, in a way, but that’s why we don’t want them to say, “Well, my next door neighbor, or my parents, or my kids think this is great.” That’s a red flag to me. What matters is what everybody else in the world thinks objectively, so people can look at it and say, with no vested interest saying, “I would buy this,” or “I don’t like that.” And that’s an important thing.
Jim DeBetta: But all of this comes down to, which I know we’re going to talk about is managing expectations when people start to work with me. And right off the bat, that’s how I determine if I should take on a client or even move on from a client when things start — when I get that feeling that things aren’t going right.
Michael Blake: Okay. Well, we’ll come back to that. Let’s start off with, how do you work with a client?
Jim DeBetta: Well, I mean, usually, people will come to me in all stages. Some people will come to me, and say, “Hey, Jim. I’ve got an idea for something.” And they haven’t really done anything. Maybe they’ve done a patent search, or they just went online, and wanted to see if the product was actually out there. And assuming that they haven’t found what it is that they’re creating, they will come to me, and I basically project manage them through the whole process. So, people will come to me at that stage. And then, people come to me that have multi-million dollar businesses, and they’re already selling some retailers, but they want to go further. They want to scale. They want to get into every retailer they can. They want to be a huge company.
Jim DeBetta: So, they come to me at all phases and stages. And they come from everywhere, from social media, all over the world from referrals. And because the world’s so digital, people can find me easily, and I get a lot of lead flow, and people just reaching out because they see me out there online.
Michael Blake: And you’re not hard to find. I mean, you’re a pretty prolific creator of content as well. And, I mean, you always want to give advice. I’m sure that helps. So, doing what you do, and I think I know the answer to this, but I don’t want to assume, what do you think is the hardest part about working with a client in your space? What’s the hardest hurdle you had to get over, the most common challenge?
Jim DeBetta: It’s that emotional part that they all believe that their product is going to be the next billion-dollar idea. And most aren’t going to be million-dollar ideas. And I always say to people, “It’s okay to be a thousander,” because no inventor that I know invents for a living. They have a day job or a night job. And so, they have a living. They live a normal life, and this is something they do on the side. They do it at their lunch break, on the weekends, at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 at night. So, for them, it’s a part-time thing, if that makes sense.
Michael Blake: That’s really interesting. You’re right. I mean, there really is, now, kind of modern day Thomas Edison, right?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah.
Michael Blake: Maybe the late Steve Jobs. Maybe he was kind of that, and he had like a whole huge corporation to sort of back that. And maybe the late, I’m sure you’re aware of him. The late Ron Popeil.
Jim DeBetta: It’s huge.
Michael Blake: That kind of that guy, right?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah, absolutely.
Michael Blake: By the way. I have one of those those Showtime Rotisserie.
Jim DeBetta: Doesn’t everyone? I think.
Michael Blake: I got one of those things for Christmas. The damn thing actually works.
Jim DeBetta: They are good.
Michael Blake: I can’t believe it. We don’t make a turkey without it now.
Jim DeBetta: Yeah.
Michael Blake: I got that thing for Christmas, and I thought, “For sure, this is going in our attic. It’s never coming out again.” And now, I was going to fry a turkey last year, and my son, “Oh, you’re going to fry a turkey?”
Jim DeBetta: Yes.
Michael Blake: “I really like the rotisserie one.” So, Ron, if you’re listening buddy, you’ve got one satisfied costumer down here.
Jim DeBetta: That’s right.
Michael Blake: But you’re right. Most people do this as a side gig. I hadn’t thought of that. That’s a really interesting.
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. And they have to because when you start, like you start any business, you’re writing checks, but there’s no money coming in. So, they need to fund the business through whatever it is that they do for a living. Very few people will call me with an inheritance on their hands, or they’ll just max out their cards, but that’s another thing too. I have to kind of temper that. If somebody says to me, “Jim, I’m going to empty my 401(k),” I push back. I don’t want it. I don’t want to feel — because I know it’s a risky business, I don’t want to be the one that takes the money there and leads them down that path. They fail, and now they really have nothing.
Michael Blake: And that puts a lot of pressure on you.
Jim DeBetta: Sure.
Michael Blake: That, for me, would create performance anxiety.
Jim DeBetta: Right.
Michael Blake: When somebody comes to me and says, “I’ve just emptied out my 401(k). I’ve leveraged the 529. My wife doesn’t know any of this.”
Jim DeBetta: I have that too. It’s like, “Don’t tell my wife. Don’t tell my husband.” I’m like, I don’t really want to start off this way. I always say, “Don’t tell me. If it’s something you don’t think I want to hear, don’t even bring it up.”
Michael Blake: That’s right.
Jim DeBetta: It’s a scary thing out with people. Because they get so emotionally attached, they will do just about anything to fund it or come up with money for it. And that’s a scary notion sometimes.
Michael Blake: So, it sounds like part of your job, and I find this in mine too, sometimes, you have to be an amateur therapist.
Jim DeBetta: You do. I mean, and again, a lot of it comes down to just calming people down. They call me up, “Jim, I’ve got this thing. It’s awesome. I’m so excited. And I’ve been doing this, and I’ve been doing that.” And you have to get them on the phone. You have to say, “All right, look, it’s a business, it’s like any other business. It’s risky.” And I have to almost scare them away because if I don’t let them know the realities of it and that they can fail.
Jim DeBetta: And some people say, “Well, why do you do that? Why do you scare people away? Why aren’t you being more positive?” I’m like, “Look, I’d rather air on the side of, ‘Okay, I prevented somebody from doing something basically stupid,’ and encourage their misbelief of something than-” You know what I mean? That’s important to me. And I’ve been doing this for you 20 plus years. I think I have a good handle, a good intuition when it comes to how people are with me. And within 30 seconds, I know how they’re going to be.
Michael Blake: And I think that’s a sign of a strong professional is you know there are some times you shouldn’t take your client on because you could take their money today. In fact, in your case, they’re probably saying, “Shut up and take my money. I got to get this thing on Walmart and Target.” And you make it hard. And I suspect, because I run into this also, when people think that they want their business appraised, I don’t want them at the end of a 30-day, 60-day, one-year process thinking that I had told them that I laid out the yellow brick road for them, and then it didn’t end that way. That’s bad all the way around, right?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. And you’ll hear me say this a few times, it’s managing expectations for people. You have to do it for them. They’re not going to do it themselves. They’re excited, right? They’ve got an idea. I mean, they see other people, they watch Shark Tank, they see all the activity out there, and they believe that their product is the next one or it’s better. And they get fooled by that. And so, it is. I have to. I don’t want to.
Jim DeBetta: I mean, who wants to turn away business, but I have to tell some people, “This is not right. You shouldn’t be doing this,” or “You should slow down,” or there are people that want to hire me, they see the offerings I have in terms of packages and things that I offer. “I want the best. I want-” I’m like “No, no. You’re not ready for that.” “What do you mean I’m not?” They get — I’m like, “Look I could take your money. I’ll send you an invoice. You’ll pay me in five seconds.”.
Jim DeBetta: But that’s not the right thing to do. The right thing is to get them in a better position to have a better chance at success. And the way to do that is to calm them down, right, and say, “Here’s what’s likely to happen. Here’s the path. It’s not going to take three weeks. It’s going to take three months or six months.” And then, they go back and sleep on it. And then, usually, most people will come back to reality and say, “Okay, I got it. I talked it over with whoever. I appreciate it. I feel good about it. Okay, how do we move forward?”
Michael Blake: So, do you remember the first time or one of the first times you ever had to fire a client? And if so — Or maybe talk about any time you had to fire a client. What prompted that? And how did somebody get through your gate process, your gate keeping?
Jim DeBetta: Well, some people, you just can’t get through to. I mean, if somebody is really that excited, you’re not going to stop them. If they don’t go to me, they’re going to find somebody else to do it for them, or they’ll do it themselves, which is scary because they really don’t know what they’re doing. I would always say, “You’re sick, you go to a doctor,” that kind of thing. You can’t be a product designer, a package expert, a factory, an attorney, and all those things. You can’t be, right?
Jim DeBetta: So, those people will go ahead and try to do it anyway. Who knows who listens to this. Of course, there’ll be no names mentioned, but I have fired a lot of people. And the first time I fired somebody, it was hard for me because it was many years ago. And, again, you’re earlier in your business, and you need all the business you can get, but you still want to have integrity and do the right thing. But you try to justify it in your own mind like, “Should I fire them or can I just — They’ll be OK you know and I’ll still work with them.”
Jim DeBetta: But I had a woman who, right off the bat, was, “This is the billion idea. And then, it’s going to be great.” You get excited by their enthusiasm. But then, literally, the next day, I’d be getting emails saying, “What’s getting done here? Are you doing this? Are you doing that? How can we ever reach out to one of the chain stores yet?” And I’m like, “We just started yesterday.” And even though I said, “It’s going to take time, this is the process,” I couldn’t calm this person down, ever. And it drove me crazy.
Jim DeBetta: Then, they get mad because you’re not performing even though you’ve had in writing saying, “This is what it’s going to take.” And you have a phone call, “This is what it’s going to take.” It’s almost like I didn’t say anything. And then, they are like almost going after, and I’m like, “I can’t.” I mean, forget the money. It’s like, “I can’t do this. It’s too stressful. Here’s somebody else you can go talk to.”
Michael Blake: It’s the kind of client where every time they contact you, it’s never just talk about what a great job you’re doing.
Jim DeBetta: But you cringe, you see that e-mail in your inbox, or the phone ringing, and you’re like, I don’t want to answer the phone when you call or be happy to get your email. I shouldn’t be working with you.” Over time, you evolve. Right now, I’m really picky. I want to work with people that are fun to work with, that I enjoy talking to. That’s like my biggest criteria now. I mean, a product is product, right? I mean, they’re made of something, they made in a factory, we sell it to the same stores, they’re widgets to me.
Jim DeBetta: I mean, I get excited and passionate about the products when I go to the retailers, but, at the end of the day, a product is a product. I have to enjoy working with you because if I cringe or even shudder at the thought of hearing from you, who wants to do that? I don’t want to do that, enough for any amount of money really.
Michael Blake: Yeah. Well-
Jim DeBetta: Maybe, maybe.
Michael Blake: So, this is actually segueing nicely into the kind of the next question I want to ask, which is, what are some of those warning signs that this relationship is a mistake and we got to think about ending it?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. On their end, they’re overenthusiastic to the point where they’re not being realistic. That’s the number one criteria to me. Number two is somebody that will tell me that they’re on their last dime doing this. And I have people that I start with. So, I’ve hired them, or they’ve hired me rather. And then, I have to fire them because they reveal something like that to me, something personal or something financial, and I’m like, “Look, it’s like building a house. You got to have the money to build the house. Once the architect lays out the plans, what are you going to build? The frame? And then, go out of money,” and I get that kind of scenario.
Jim DeBetta: Those people, I have to try to help them for free, so to speak, and transition them off of what they’re doing or onto another, like maybe go to licensing versus doing it themselves, and introduce them to those people. But I got to let those people go to because that kind of thing where they reveal something personal to me, I know it’s going to be — Then, yes. There’s that performance pressure. If this thing isn’t a home run, maybe they won’t get mad at me, but I’m going to feel bad and it’s going to be devastating for them.
Michael Blake: Right. I mean, if you have any sense of integrity, you do feel responsibility for the client outcomes. And yeah, I’m sure some people just want to bring inventions to the market because that’s just a vision they have. But people want to make money. They’re putting a significant financial investment. I get that too. And particularly in the startup space, someone will call me up and say, “I want to get my business appraised because I’m going to raise money.”
Michael Blake: And one of the first questions I ask them is, “Well, you’re talking to this one investor. If they no, what happens?” “Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure.” “Well, do you have enough money to survive?” “Well, no. I need this investment.” I said, “Well, then my valuation doesn’t matter.” Right?
Jim DeBetta: Right.
Michael Blake: If that person walks away, you’re out of business. I’ve taken a check, but I haven’t helped, I really haven’t helped anybody in that process, right?
Jim DeBetta: Right.
Michael Blake: And that invention, inventor story sounds very similar to that.
Jim DeBetta: I think that’s a big part of it. I think because those people that come to us, you hope that they’re coming to us for a reason because they don’t know something, we know something, they need our help. And that’s another reason that I’ve let people go is because people will hire me, and then they tell me everything that I’m supposed to be doing. Even though they have no knowledge, they say, “Jim shouldn’t you do this? And this is how this should be done. No, when you talk to a buyer this is what you should be saying.” I’m like-
Michael Blake: Oh, that drives me crazy.
Jim DeBetta: And look, I’m open here. Look, I’m willing to learn something new. I don’t care where it comes from. I mean, my kids can tell me something, and if I could pick up something, and it helps me to do my job better for them, great. I’m not about, “You hire me, so I tell you everything. You have no say. You have no ability to help.” I always tell people right off the bat, “This is a two-way street. We have to communicate. I need things from you. You need things for me. And if there’s differences, we talk them out. But primarily, you’ve hired me. You’re paying me to do something that you can’t do or don’t know how to do. So, when push comes to shove, you have to make a choice,go with my words because I’ve done this ten thousand times.”
Michael Blake: Why hire me if you’re not you’re not going to listen to my advice?
Jim DeBetta: Right. And I’ve let a couple people go in the middle of things because they were so overbearing with them hiring me, but then all of a sudden, they where the expert and I was the client. It shouldn’t be that way. Again, it should be collaborative, but it shouldn’t be where if I pay somebody to come do something for me, I expect that they’re going to be competent, and they’re going to do their job. And I say, “Hey, what about that?” or “Can you maybe look at this?” That’s your right. You’re paying money, but if you’re going to overwhelm, overtake the whole process, then you know what, go do it yourself or find somebody else. And it’s frustrating sometimes.
Michael Blake: I think that gets a fundamental lack of trust, and not in your trustworthiness, but the client’s inability to trust you. I actually fired a client earlier, it’s now 2019, middle of last year because we did an appraisal for them, sent them a draft. And the client, then, took our drafts, started showing it, and said, “I showed it to my friend who’s an investment banker,” and he says, “Your numbers are wrong.” And I listened very carefully to investment bankers because they’re out in the marketplace. So, many of them are very good experts.
Michael Blake: So, well. “What did you show them?” “First of all, I showed you the work product.” “So, okay, our engagement, I said, you weren’t supposed to do that, but, okay. What information did you give them besides the work product?” “Nothing, we had a 10-minute conversation.” “All right. So, our teams put in 25 hours on this, but you’re going to show this to one person with a 10-minute conversation, you’re going to decide that their opinion is more valid than mine. I think that you should retain them or somebody else. Let’s settle up and split because if that’s the level of trust you have in this process, I can’t think of what’s going to make it end well.”
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. And we fight that in my business too. Somebody will immediately go somewhere else, or they’ll try to reach the retail buyers themselves because I haven’t gotten in touch with them quick enough. There’s always going to be those types of people. So, all you can do really is just try to set the table from the beginning, “Here’s how I work. This is what I expect of you. This is what you should expect of me.” We talk about it. We write it out.
Jim DeBetta: Beyond that, you lose control a little bit. But, again, you can usually — I know I can get a great sense of how somebody is immediately. I could just tell. I could tell their tone. It also depends on how much experience they have. If they’ve been trying to do this on their own, and they’ve failed repeatedly, they’re coming to me at a desperation. They really will then say, “Okay. Jim, you do what you got to do,” because they’re at their end. They don’t have other option. They’ve probably tried other avenues, or tried calling other people, and they aren’t getting satisfaction. So now, I’m the end game for them.
Jim DeBetta: Those people are a little easier to deal with because they let me do my thing, and they listen better. The ones that, like I said, get very emotional or very connected to their own thought about, “This is not going to fail no matter what,” I’m like, “Well, you need to have a great mindset, this is not going to be an easy road, but I’m telling you right now, the chances of you succeeding, they’re small. And I just want to let you know that right off the bat.” But we get that people will go around you, or talk to a name, or somebody who’s not from the business at all even, and say, “They said that this packaging doesn’t look good or the pricing is wrong.” And I’m like, “Are they buying it? Are they in this business?” I get a lot of that. And it’s easy usually to kind of squash it. But, once in a while, you get somebody who really push the envelope on it.
Michael Blake: So, how do you tell whether or not there’s a systematically bad fit versus it’s just a bad day, bad week ,bad month for you or the client?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. I have people that they are a good fit, and then they’ll have that breakdown because they’re right, they’re spending money, and nothing’s happening yet. They’re not selling. It’s much easier to write a check to get prototypes done or patents done, but to sell a retail, it’s such a long-selling cycle. So, they won’t see money for six months, a year, and it’s hard for them. And so, sometimes people will — It seems like everything is going great, and I get that email that I’m happy to get or that call, but it’s a total flip. They’re like, “Jim, I don’t know what’s going on, and I feel this way, I feel that way.” That’s a bad day. They just need you to encourage them. “Look, this is the business. This is what we talked about. It’s going to be all right. I understand.”
Jim DeBetta: Nine out of 10 times, they’re good. You talk to them right through, But other times, you get people who are completely the opposite. And, again, I got a pretty good feel, I rarely get it wrong these days. I used to not always get it right, but, now, I’m a much better because I’m even more patient with waiting for people. I don’t look to sign somebody up so quickly anymore. Now, I let people sleep on it, and I sleep on it.
Jim DeBetta: I had been talking to a woman just yesterday, actually yesterday morning. Long story short, I talked to her a couple of weeks ago. She sent me samples, I looked at them, I thought they were really good. And I took a few days to call her back. I wanted to feel like this was a good fit for me as well. And we got on the phone, and we talked it out, and she understands. And I said, “Well if you’re good,” and then, I followed up with an email and said, “Let me know what you think.” And so, I’m slower in my process, but I think that allows me to have less error in what kind of client I have and how they’re going to be.
Michael Blake: I tell people, there’s not that much benefit to being older. You get gray hair, and in my case you get two arthritic ankles, but the positive side of that is wisdom.” And realizing that the value of a deep breath, the value of sleeping on things, the value that you don’t have to respond to everything right in the moment because that leads to a bad decision more often than not.
Jim DeBetta: And I’m not that way. I’m more of the impulsive type. It’s hard for me to sit back and wait. I’m not afraid to lose anything. There’s always businesses. There will always be. As long as there are inventors, I’ll be in business. I never worry about that anymore. But it’s still my nature to want to respond quickly, but I have to actually stop myself and find something else to do. Otherwise, I will be reactive too quickly.
Michael Blake: Yeah. I mean, you’d love to resolve it, get it off your plate, and not have to worry about it. But again, that’s just growth. That’s the benefit we get for the gray hair. Do you have a preferred kind of method for firing a client? In other words, there’s a passive way to firing a client, which is basically raise your rates, and then they don’t want to work with you anymore. Or there’s that, “It’s not me, it’s you” conversation, even though in your mind you’re saying, “It’s not me, it’s you.” Do you have a preferred method or have you use different techniques based on a different scenario?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. When you had written that out about the raise your prices sort of thing, I think I do that naturally only because I know the type of client I want, and I know that will do well, and I know that client has to be financially capable of doing things. I know that there are people who will — I don’t do the free stuff or the 1999 to get them in the door. I don’t like doing those types of things because I know that that client will pay a few dollars to get information, but they probably won’t want to pay a lot more to have the real work done.
Jim DeBetta: I don’t know if I have a specific way I go about that. I think I just feel it as I go and as things develop. But my criteria is, just like I said, it’s just more instinct than it is anything these days. I just get a sense. I get them on the phone. I won’t do it via email. If I have a problem with somebody, I am a big emailer. I prefer to actually email and text people than to talk all day long. But if I have a problem with somebody, I will call them, and I will say that it’s them. I won’t blame me because I know that I do the same thing for you, that I’ll do for you, that I do for everybody, if that makes sense.
Jim DeBetta: So, I will let them know that. It’s not tolerable. I can’t work on the — You hired me to help you, and you’re telling me what to do, or you’re unrealistic. And I know this is going to lead to bad things. So, I tell them that either they need to change, and some people will, or they need to understand that we can’t work together anymore. And then I’ll finish up and help them transition, but that’s usually what I would do.
Michael Blake: Well, that’s good. So, you don’t break up by email, or text, or anything like that.
Jim DeBetta: No. Not like that.
Michael Blake: Do it like a professional, right?
Jim DeBetta: That’s a tough one to do.
Michael Blake: But the object lesson here is if I ever see you calling, that means you’re going to break up with me.
Jim DeBetta: That sounds great. I would tell people, “If I call you, and I don’t outbound call a lot of my clients a lot, it’s either something is going on bad, or something is really good, like we get a big purchase order from a retailer, but you’ll like it enough. That’s a fun phone call to get. But if I call you otherwise, something is up. Otherwise, we’re going to email and correspond that way.”
Michael Blake: Okay. Is there a client you can remember that you should have fired, but didn’t?
Jim DeBetta: There’s probably a bunch that I probably should have. And again, those with were the early days when I tried to hang on, not necessarily I really needed to, but I felt like I could. I tried to — Like I said, with age comes wisdom. Now I know that I don’t want to wake up tomorrow feeling stressed. I don’t want to go through a month of stress before I let somebody go. If I feel the tension, and I know it because it’s not me, even if I’m wrong, I’m still going to let them go.
Michael Blake: I found that I cannot think of a time where I’ve ultimately regretted either firing a client or turning one away, but I can tell you for sure the clients that I’ve regretted taking on are not fired.
Jim DeBetta: Yeah, I agree. I think you remember, if you will, the mistakes more than.
Michael Blake: That’s right.
Jim DeBetta: Because we don’t know what would have happened with that the other way. But we know when we keep ones that are difficult, you still try to see it through though, right? I always try to ignore how they get, and I just say, “Just let me do my thing.” If I just keep going on, and they don’t like what I’m doing, they’re going to fire me. So, I almost put it on them. I’m like, “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Michael Blake: Well, you think they’ll fire you, right? But some don’t.
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. No, you’re right. But then it winds up working out because, then, they see what they hired me for, right. At the end of the day, at the end of the road, look, it worked, or you got your product developed, or hey, you’re selling it on whatever website. Then, they’re happy and appreciative later on.
Michael Blake: So, that’s interesting. So, I think that’s sort of a lesson. It seems to me like you know pretty early on if it’s a bad fit. It doesn’t sort of sneak up on you necessarily. It’s not like the boiling fraud for example. It sounds like you know pretty early on.
Jim DeBetta: Yes. Almost every time, I know right away.
Michael Blake: Really?
Jim DeBetta: Very quickly.
Michael Blake: That’s awesome.
Jim DeBetta: Because I can, again. And I think that a lot of it, it’s just instinct and experience. I’ve done it a million times. There’s only certain ways people can be. It’s not like there’s a thousand different ways people are going to act. It’s just really a handful when I see those that are red flags to me, I know. And like I said, again, even before there is a higher fire, I know how people are going to be. If I can’t manage their expectations immediately, I know that I shouldn’t even begin working with them. Never mind having to fire them, so to speak.
Michael Blake: Because it’s not going to get better.
Jim DeBetta: It’s not. I know it’s not going to be.
Michael Blake: The more ingrained you get, you’re more entrenched, right?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. And I don’t need that. I don’t want that.
Michael Blake: Okay. Has a client ever talked you out of firing them? You’re all set, you’re going to fire them, but then they said, “No, I really want to stick it. Please, Jim. You’re so great. I promise I’ll be better.”
Jim DeBetta: I don’t know if I’ve had that. I think it’s either it’s cut or dry. I’ve had a few people where I’ve told them they need to calm down. It wasn’t like you’re getting fired. I guess it’s like the warning, right?
Michael Blake: Yeah.
Jim DeBetta: You need to chill out, you need to do this, you need to do that, or you’re not communicating well, or you’re going and trying to email a buyer when I told you do not do that. People will go off the script, so to speak. And I’ll warn them. And then, those people will say, “Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it,” even though they probably knew what they were doing. And then most of the time, they’re good. They turn around because I try to be friendly. I’m not like, get on, I’m trying to be rough with people when I work with them. I’m not trying to dictate. I’m trying to do my job.
Michael Blake: People hurt themselves when they do that.
Jim DeBetta: Right. So, it’s kind of like a parent to a kid. Look, you’re doing this wrong, and then you hug him later and it’s fine, and usually that works out.
Michael Blake: Okay. Any concluding comments? Anything we haven’t covered that you think we should before we wrap up here?
Jim DeBetta: Well, I think we’ve hit on all the big things. I think you have to — I think, for me, and I think what other people can benefit from is even though you want that client, even though it may be important to you, whether it’s financially or just for your own self to feel like you can obtain clients. I think you have to go with your gut. I think you have to realize that if something just doesn’t feel right, and you feel like it’s overwhelming, or there’s going to be undue pressure, or you can’t manage those expectations, just don’t even do it. Don’t even start. I know it’s easy to say because I’ve been doing this, and I have an established business, but if I could look back at my younger self and do certain things over, I would probably have been a little more patient with the hire, so I didn’t have to worry about the fire.
Michael Blake: Because hiring the wrong client can actually do more harm than good, right?
Jim DeBetta: Yeah. And, also, if you get people who are a little off the wall with the way they are, they’re very aggressive, or they’re hotheaded. Then, today, with social media, they could just go online and be reckless in what they say about you.
Michael Blake: That’s true.
Jim DeBetta: I’ve been fortunate, I’ve never had anybody do that. Although I’ve not had many people that have gotten upset like that. But, still, it’s so easy. I mean, someone could just comment on this podcast blah, blah, blah. People do whatever they like.
Michael Blake: You can walk out of here and accuse me of a federal crime.
Jim DeBetta: Before I even get to my car, right?
Michael Blake: Absolutely.
Jim DeBetta: And that’s scary. So, you have to also be cognizant of that, that if you feel like that person is going to be that person. I have people call me up and they say, “Jim,” and they tell me how confrontational they are with other things in their life. And I’m like, “Yikes. Is that the kind of person I want to even work with? If things go south, maybe they’re going to-” If they’re telling me what they’re doing to other people, maybe they’re going to do that to me.
Michael Blake: Sorry, I was late, I got a ticket for road rage on my first meeting.
Jim DeBetta: Right, yeah.
Michael Blake: Not a good sign.
Jim DeBetta: Well, I’ll call you back tomorrow. We’ll see if we could work together.
Michael Blake: So, well this has been great. I want to make sure people know how to find you. So, if they want to learn more about this or what you would actually do for a living, how do they find you?
Jim DeBetta: Well, can you hide anymore these days? I mean, if-
Michael Blake: I’ve tried, man.
Jim DeBetta: You can’t. No, not today. Yeah, we push too much out there to be — I would say social media is the best way. I have one of the largest invention groups on Facebook in the world. It’s called We Know Inventing. People could go on there. But if they just go on and Google Jim DeBetta, it will lead them to my websites, which one is my namesake jimdebetta.com. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Instagram, I’m on LinkedIn very heavily, I’m on Twitter. They’ll find me in two seconds. They’ll be able to reach me. And I answer everything. It’s hard to because I get a couple hundred emails a week or messages. And I believe in that. I’ll sit up, and I’ll, at least, say, “Got it. And thanks for reaching out.” So, I respond to people. And I think it’s important to in business to be busy as you get to, at least, acknowledge somebody coming along.
Michael Blake: Yeah. Well, very good. Well, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Jim DeBetta so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next business decision, you have clear vision when you’re making it. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.
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