As an entrepreneur for my entire career, this is one of my favourite business stories to tell. It made me realize and appreciate a lot of things I’d learned in one fast slap—specifically the value of my time.
It was a very low point in my life where I felt little self worth and was blind to many things due to the circumstances in my personal life. One of those things was right-fit clients. I’d learned about this concept and was able to practice listening to my gut and seeing the red flags but couldn’t recognize it at this time.
I had been working for this particular client—let’s call him Jack. Jack came off as very privileged and must have learned how to do business in the bizarro universe. It was a family business and CYA was always an issue. His incompetent family could do no wrong and the blame always seemed to end up on others. Even though he masked it slightly with false courtesies, Jack subscribed to the “I’m the client and you’re my supplier, bitch” philosophy. Again, not right fit.
I jumped through hoops trying to prove my self worth and always going the extra mile to please. It was like self torture to try to believe I was actually good. Even though he had unrealistic expectations, I endeavoured to meet every challenge in a pleasant manner. And if you know me you’d realize this is a spectacular feat.
It was a long weekend and I was away visiting my pal 2 hours away when Jack called on the Sunday to say he needed to “urgently meet tomorrow” as if someone was dying. I asked why, and he imposed his personal arbitrary timeline to garner control. I knew it was happening but staying the course I set out on, I agreed to cut my weekend short in order to meet. This type of thing happened several times within our year of working together. Months went on with the same type of demands. I was getting worn down but it’s amazing how much abuse you’ll take when you are low.
One day I was driving on my way to another client meeting. Jack called and said he needed to meet right away without any supporting reason for the urgency. I explained I had another meeting. He said “cancel it”. I asked him how he would like it if I cancelled a meeting with him on the whim of another client. He said “well then tomorrow”. I told him I’d be out of town for the day. It escalated and he was then prying into where I’d be and what I’d be doing. “Where are you going? Holiday? Up North? Where?”. Seriously. I told him I wouldn’t have time until the following day — a Saturday.
After escalating to anger, he yelled into the phone “my time is more important than yours!” It took a couple of seconds to process the words. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road to prepare myself for what would take place next.
I asked, “did you really just say what I thought I heard?”… “could you please repeat those words?”. There was an awkward pause.
After he processed what he just said, as he surely did not think before he spoke, he tried to reframe in a different more calm way quickly realizing the audacity of his words. “Well…my time is at a premium”, which still meant the same thing to me. He knew he just said something damaging and he may have even realized how self-centred and egotistical it sounded. But probably not. Who says things like that?
After he stopped, I calmly asked him if he truly thought his time was more valuable than mine. He backtracked, tripping over his words and tried to justify using money as his supporting principal. I thought to myself “did he really say these things? Is this person THAT ignorant, selfish and money driven that he believes his time is more valuable than mine?? Especially after everything I’ve done to help him? It’s obvious he did. I explained to him that my time is as valuable as anyone’s. If I choose to use my time to spend with my children, or my mom or doing something I love, then that is the value I place. I doubt he heard anything although he did hear me say that we are definitely not the right fit and I would not work with him any more. He seemed to understand even though he probably found some way to make his behaviour my fault.
I had hoped that was it, but upon sending my final invoice he tried to do some tricky things to avoid paying for work completed. Luckily I had some leverage and confronted him on it face to face. I have never met such an egotistical and untrusting, self-centred man in my life. I will give him credit for one thing. After I called him out on his attempt to cheat me out of close to $2K he quietly apologized as he handed the cheque over.
My point is — even when you are low you need to listen to your gut. Stay true to your self. It’s also nice to have good and positive, trusting people around you to support your decisions and keep you on the right path :)
The end. Lesson learned. Until next time!