Stop Being a Vendor!


My clients have to tolerate a surprising amount of cheekiness from me.  I tell them the truth as I see it and I am fairly consistent in my outspoken directness about what I see is happening with their practice, how their worldview is impacting their growth, what their options are and what I think they might consider to move things forward.  I’m not right all the time but I let er rip as best as I can.

And for all the terrifyingly candid moments that have made me prematurely grey in the head, my reward is that I am seldom treated like a vendor.  And so it’s worth it.

As I see it, a vendor does the job they were paid for.  A vendor doesn’t question the almighty client.  Especially if that client wants to spend money.  A vendor doesn’t set ROI objectives and doesn’t want to be held accountable.  A vendor is a guy standing on the side of the pool with a life preserver waiting to be asked to throw it in when someone is drowning.  And then they have the extraordinary audacity to wonder why they are treated like an outsider! It’s the appallingly ignorant, infuriating stupidity of people like this that has allowed us and our little company to create a solid following of clients and friends.

We like to think of ourselves as Advocates.  That means that I am always seeking ways to serve my clients.  Even if that means we fire them.  Even if that means we sell away.  Even if that means we tell them “THE BAD NEWS” whatever it is.  That their goal is too high or their logic is flawed.  Yes, I know we’re not supposed to be so mouthy but since I’ve owned this company and have hired several of my own “vendors” I’ve seen the vast distance between how “out there” we are and how stupid, irresponsible and lazy other people can be.  And to tell you the truth, I like it our way a whole lot.

Here’s a story:  I had a woman sit with me for a cup of coffee who works in my industry.  She explained that she loves it when clients are crazy and like to make all kinds of changes to their work – even if it’s not in their best interests.  “What do I care?” she laughed, “I charge them by the hour!  Be as crazy as you want!”

Well, I was appalled.  If I had a client that was so lost in the weeds I’d consider it our responsibility to smack some sense into them.  Out there?  Yep.  Risky?  Totally.  But when it comes to the battlefield of business do you need another lazy vendor taking your money and telling you whatever you want to hear instead of providing some real leadership and creativity?  Or do want to hire a real partner who cares about your success?  Of course!

So if we take it as a general assumption that being an advocate is the superior position, here’s the million dollar question:  How do you cross the line on behalf of the people you serve?  How will you get out of your comfort zone and serve?