When to ditch that nightmare customer (before they kill your startup)

Three million dollars. That’s the largest amount of money I’ve ever walked away from in terms of a customer contract that I decided we shouldn’t take. 

It sucked. It was, at the time, more than half of the total amount of funds we had raised and it also represented just a shade more than the previous year’s revenue. It was a Fortune 500 company and the market leader in their industry. This was pocket money to them — which was part of the problem.

Good entrepreneurs spend a lot of time worrying about customers. We worry about the customers we have, the ones we don’t have, the ones we lost, and the ones we’re in danger of losing. We worry so much about where the next customer is going to come from that we never think twice about whether we should take on, or keep, a customer that’s more trouble than they’re worth.

The customer is king

As entrepreneurs, we need to be unflinchingly customer-first. We are the drivers, but the customers are holding the map. We should spend copious amounts of time listening, usually through data, to figure out our next move. We should know the risks when we go off-road, not only the setbacks that come with making the wrong choice, but the fact that we’ll hear about it from all sides until we right the ship.