Client Horror Stories

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That time you poured your heart into your moonshot, but ended up burning down 3 acres of Stanford University (with Mark Jacobsen)

Our 20th take at Client Horror Stories brings in a particularity that sets apart from the rest: there are actually no clients involved. In today’s episode, we have Mark Jacobsen, author of Eating Glass: The Inner Journey Through Failure and Renewal, with an excruciating story that has us sharing his pain from the very beginning. 

Mark’s narrative brings us the point of view of a military pilot during the hottest years of war with an unstoppable will to help the Syrian refugees, which eventually led him to begin a non-profit with his own resources. His tale starts in the very beginning of the motivation for it, then goes through his innovative idea of using drones to reach places he couldn’t fly to, and eventually gets to the breakdown point: creating a 3-acre wildfire in Stanford. 

What’s so special about today’s episode, is the fact that it teaches us that, no matter how pure our intentions are, some moonshots can be achieved by just trying and trying. Among some of the many lessons that this story taught us, we shall highlight Mark’s point on being able to create and maintain healthy habits both for you and your team, and making sure you have a business plan before you start anything, even when your anything is a nonprofit. But overall, it teaches us that even though our intuition can really help us see a problem coming, sometimes other people’s intuition can also help us find the right solutions to it. 


Morgan Friedman

That time your teenage idol hired you to manage their show, then makes you learn not to meet your heroes the hard way (with James Hush)

In our 19th take at Client Horror Stories, we have James Hush with a story very different to anything else we’ve heard: for the first time in Client Horror Stories, we have the story of a client with nothing to do with the tech world, and we definitely loved it. Not only today’s guest comes from the music industry, but he also has an awesome ability to link bands and shows management to handling a traditional enterprise and its clients. And also, he was happy to share with us many clips from his teenage band. 

Today’s tale brings us back to when James was a college kid with rockstar dreams, and was taken under the wing of a show manager who taught him everything he knew. So when he was experienced enough, the best thing that ever could have happened happened: he was hired to plan and manage the event of his most admired label in the world. However, if everything was so great, he would not be telling his story here, would he? 

James’s tale is as exciting as it is worth listening to, and it leaves us not only with some pretty cool Beatles and Aerosmith’s anecdotes, but also a lot of valuable lessons on handling clients, no matter the industry you work in. So, as a general best practice in James language: don’t focus on just one project at a time, choose your door person, and, no matter what happens, write down the terms beforehand. Oh, and over anything else: that sometimes just showing up and doing what you are asked to makes a huge difference. 

About James: 

James has given teams the ability to ship features at 5 pm on a Friday in 15 minutes to millions of users. He believes any engineering team can deliver high quality features that customers love on time, without working late or opening a bottle of Advil.


James Hush

Morgan Friedman


That time your company had you working 36 hours straight, then took away your bonus (with Violet Femm)

In our 17th take at Client Horror Stories, we receive Violet Femmes, who brings us a dramatic and introspective story that lasted two years but gave her lessons for a lifetime. Today’s episode has a therapy-like tint that definitely makes the narrative strike a significant chord in us. 

Opening with the phrase “I am terrific at making mistakes”, Violet’s tale has more than enough elements to make it a memorable one, but if we had to choose a couple of them to highlight they would definitely be emails “accidentally” sent to the wrong people, a lot of fancy wine, bewaring procurement, and the fact that horror comes not only from your client, but also from your own company. 

Today’s episode leaves us slightly unsettled, and the realization that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, some things just can’t be accomplished. Violet’s tale teaches us that, every now and then, not even a 36 hours workday can get all your tasks done, and that’s when you need to take a step back and be able to ask for the help you need, and hope that your company is there to back you up.


Morgan Friedman

That time your offhand joke became the embarring headline in the press (with Scott Kveton)

In our 17th take at Client Horror Stories, Scott Kveton, founding partner of, brings us a story that takes us 11 years back in time, back to the moment where people used to camp and wait in line for hours to get iPhone 3.0. 

Scott’s tale starts with a “Why wait three months? Let’s launch in 30 days!” optimism, and includes everything that a good story should: The press, young and inexperienced entrepreneurs, a deal with the biggest app in the app store, and even Steve Jobs. 

Today’s episode leaves us with a couple of great lessons on how to properly build your teams, how carefully you should choose your clients (even if they are tech giants that say they’ll refer you!), the importance of trusting someone’s instincts, even if they are not incredibly experienced, and definitely choosing wisely the jokes we’ll tell to the press.


Scott Kveton

Morgan Friedman

That time your wonderful client was growing fast and doing great, then mysteriously shuts down overnight (with Bonnie Rothman)

In our 16th take at Client Horror Stories, Bonnie Rothman, CEO of Company B, brings us a fast, exciting, and very well told (not that she tells stories for a living!) horror story. Today’s tale has everything that a great story needs: dynamism, excitement, plot twists, and shoes in the oven. 

In today’s episode, Bonnie walks us through the story of an incredibly well-funded startup that had a great idea and had been growing super fast, so everything indicated that the future ahead could only get brighter. And it did, at first. As Bonnie’s strategies kept making her client’s company grow more and more, so did the excitement that both created revolving around the company’s acceleration and expansion, until one day, 10 minutes before their scheduled team meeting, Bonnie received the call that turned this into a horror story: The team meeting was being canceled, and the investors decided to shut their business down because they weren’t reaching their expected numbers. Harsh. 

Bonnie’s tale leaves us with more than a couple of interesting lessons on how sometimes you do everything right (and how important it is that you recognize it!), and you still fail due to factors that could never be managed by you. Reaching the end, Bonnie tells us what she thinks the bottom line is: The most important thing is to be able to build a trust-based relationship with your clients, that allows them to be vulnerable with you and express their fears. Make sure you are trusted, that you provide good and coherent ideas, and that you are a good partner, even if that includes offering to go for a drink after your client learns that their business will be shut down. 

About Bonnie: 

Your story drives your business and builds your brand. I'm the founder and CEO of Company B, a digital communications agency. A lifelong storyteller, former New York Times journalist and screenwriter, I help high growth companies tell stories through content and public relations, driving massive media attention. Stakeholders want to hear more from you, learn more about you and do more business with you.


Bonnie Rothman

Company B

Morgan Friedman

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