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Client Horror Stories

Kindness overload: A story of how “kindness” could be used as a double-edged sword.

Kindness overload: A story of how “kindness” could be used as a double-edged sword.

This article was based upon Episode #14: Will Rico’s intricate career journey dissected here for us by himself and Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!


“So be thankful to me and give me a commission.” – Will Rico’s partner

Being kind and helpful is a good trait that all of us should manifest. I mean, who doesn’t want to have a reliable friend when you need help? Of course, it’s a two-way relationship, so you give the same generosity as well. This virtue is admirable, but there is always a bad side to every good deed. 

Sometimes being too kind and helpful will become the reason for your downfall, especially when doing business. Being kind can be a great asset in the business industry, but when your kindness is offered to the wrong set of people, you will definitely wish that you were not the goody-two-shoes that you once were. 

Good people deserve your best, and bad people deserve the worst. This is a story of how Will Rico, our sharer for today, made the mistake of showing an act of kindness to his manipulative and narcissistic client.

The story begins way back in 2001 where the digital era was still in its developing period. Will, at that time, had a digital marketing agency that provided a little bit of web development and a lot of technician work. Because the internet was still developing during that time, their digital marketing agency went from creating websites to solving any computer-related problems. 

Will was willing to do whatever work he could to sustain his agency, and he was hoping that someday he might find the right client that would hire their agency solely for digital marketing tasks. Will’s agency was doing many websites for other businesses, building Microsoft access databases, going to people’s offices in Manhattan to run wires and fix the ethernet cable problems. Will was also motivated to work hard because, during that time, the agency was on a debt of $30,000. 

However, all of those reasons were just a mask to cover up their agency’s main problem; they don’t have a specific area of expertise. Will was hoping that through random tech work, they would eventually slot into a particular service area, which would be their agency’s real work.

1.Being a jack of all trades is dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong, having a lot of talent is a good thing. You know how to cook, play tennis, go swimming, fix a slight problem in your car, and many more. But being an expert is different from just knowing the basics of doing these things. 

Being a jack of all trades is a huge risk because you tend to accept a task that you partially know, but when it is time to actually dig deeper into the problem and solve highly technical stuff, you have no other choice but to seek help. You might get away with the situation by asking for help, but sooner or later, when the odds aren’t in your favor, you will mess things up and cause a huge problem. 

If you have an agency or plan to create one, be a company with a niche-focused target. There are also times when being a jack of all trades is not bad, only if the things you’re working on are quite related. For example, building a website and installing a computer network is not that far from Will’s knowledge. Before creating a website, you must first learn everything there is to know about computers. You can’t become technologically competent if you don’t know how to install a computer. 

Going back to the story, Will’s hands are tied from making a website, and then at any random second, his phone will suddenly ring for clients asking for help on their internet connection. Will had to ride the subway from his office to the caller’s location just to plug in the ethernet wire that seemed to be the solution to the caller’s problem. That was basically the story of his business career back then. Flashing back to when Will was still in high school, he was used to assembling computers. 

He was looking for a job and a place to stay, and he saw the perfect opportunity. There was a rental office space in a computer store. The computer shop was hidden because it didn’t have a storefront, and you had to take the elevator up that building to see a computer shop there. Will’s boss at that computer shop was an eccentric, bossy, and fiery person. 

Let’s give this eccentric boss a name, Mark should be able to fit the role. So Will was very thankful that he finally had work and a place to stay, so he was ready to do whatever work Mark would give him. By everything, Will meant computer stuff, but Mark had other things in mind. His boss literally gave Will all kinds of tasks. He would clean the office, vacuum the rugs, get Mark’s lunch, and many more. 

And that’s not even the worst part. Mark was always yelling and screaming at their office. It’s either he is screaming at Will and the other co-workers or at the vendors from where he would be buying computer parts. Will’s high school experience was fully packed with lessons and memories that he will never forget. For Will, it was such a memorable experience that after 10 years, he opted to rent an office space from Mark. Note that, this time, Will is just a regular boarder renting for an office, and Mark is no longer his boss.

2.Avoid terrible and toxic people.

Will already knows Mark’s attitude, and yet he still wants to maintain their relationship. If it is unnecessary or you don’t have a strong reason, it would be practical and wise to avoid toxic people because you might adapt to their ways and become toxic as well. Toxicity has been around in the business industry, and you will always meet a handful of them throughout your career. Learn how to identify them and, as much as possible, stay away from them.

Will, during that time, was looking for an affordable renting office so that he could start his own company, which must have been the reason he wanted to go back to Mark’s office. Even if Will was looking for an affordable office, he still wanted a safe and secure place. Will already knows the feeling of living in that office, and he was already a little bit attached to that place. 

Will thought that with his history with Mark, he would know how to handle 

Mark’s personality. Will was even aware of Mark’s attitude, wherein every deal they made, Mark always wanted to get the greater deal. Like if they were sharing money, Mark wants to have the 90% of the share, and Will will only get the remaining 10%. The bottom line is that Will already had experience working with this eccentric person, so he thought he could adapt to the environment of his office space. 

One day, while Will was working on the tiny cubicle in the office, a gentleman came into Mark’s office. He introduced himself as someone who has a close working relationship with a prominent computer manufacturer. This gentleman added that he was getting many leads from this huge computer manufacturer, but the work is not related to what he really does. Let’s name this gentleman David. 

So, David is more focused on software engagements, and the leads that he gets from this computer manufacturer all need help in installing PCs or building a website. David wanted to give Mark all of the leads that he collected and get a commission in return. At first, Mark was confused about why David approached him to do website building and computer installation when he was just a regular computer shop owner. 

Then Mark realized that David must have read his website back when Will was still working with him in high school. Will was building websites and fixing computer problems back in high school, so that must have been included in their website. Mark immediately had an idea and invited Will to lunch. Will overheard the conversation because of the little privacy their shared office had to offer. 

When Mark invited him to lunch, Will automatically knew what Mark’s plan was. Mark told Will the entire story and told him they should accept the offer. But, Mark should get 80% of the money, David will get 10% out of commission, and Will will take the other 10%. In context, if they earn $5000, Mark will get $4000, David will take $500, and Will, the one who did all the work, will receive $500. Will was hesitant at first, but he was still beginning to create his agency, so he needed all the experience and income. 

Will accepted the offer, and David started to give Mark and Will 2 leads. It all worked out well until Mark did the unexpected. Mark still had his work attitude and yelled at the client that David gave them. Mark had a huge fight with the two leads that David offered, and the client’s complaints reached the higher people of the huge computer manufacturer. 

David was discouraged and called Will to tell him about the issue. David told Will that he really enjoyed their time working together and that Will was a kind person, but what Mark did was really a red flag. The computer manufacturer was the heart of David’s business, and he cannot afford to lose them over some guy who can’t control their anger and yells at a client. 

David told Will that he would no longer give them leads as an end to their partnership. David added that he was truly sorry and he wanted to work with him more, but David doesn’t have the patience to work with a guy like Mark. Will replied to David, “Well you know he’s not really my boss.” Will informed David that Mark was his recent boss, he was just renting an office space, and they are actually a separate company. Will was trying to tell David that he could end his relationship with Mark if he couldn’t handle Mark’s attitude, but he could take Will instead because he was the one doing all the work. 

Will did not have any bad intentions in mind. He didn’t make that offer to cut Mark off the partnership to get a bigger share. Will is a kind person, and he wanted to help both of them at the same time. Will will continue accepting the leads from David, all the while slowly letting David understand Mark’s attitude so that at some point, Will could be able to reconcile them both and bring them back together.

David agreed to give the leads to Will instead of Mark, and they began to develop a relationship. David keeps on giving Will some leads, and Will was always successful on the projects, and all of the clients were satisfied. Everything worked well with Will until he received a pro quo and the commission. David and Will already agreed with the commission, but David was slowly asking for favors from Will. Like David would simply tell Will that he needs help in fixing his website. 

David doesn’t pay for it. After all, he expected that Will would do it for free because he was the one who helped Will get a job. There are even times when Will cannot give a cash commission to David, but in return, David will give Will a task to redevelop and redesign his website. The price for these tasks is not comparable to the amount of commission that Will would give him. But, out of respect and an internal debt to David, Will does it for free or for a discounted price. 

Redesigning a whole website alone can already cost $4000, and Will only charges David $1000. David was a photographer, and he has a website in which he posts all of his beautiful photography. The problem with his website is that the person who created and developed his website made a sophisticated software system. 

David wanted Will to help him rebuild his website and put all of his photographs on the giant photo gallery. David already treated Will as his personal assistant, free of charge. Because again, Will felt indebted to David because, without his help, Will could never get clients. 

During that time, Will tolerated David’s ways because he had received four great clients that offered him big projects. These projects have an average of $30,000 to $50,000, and Will was really thankful to David for these leads. These clients also became good friends with Will, and they also referred Will to other business owners who needed help installing PCs or building websites. 

But during those years of David giving Will some leads, most of them are not that great. Some of those leads have complex problems that are unsolvable to even the most experienced IT at that time. It turns out that David was actually exaggerating. Like David would meet someone in New York City, use his charm, and tell that person that he knows someone who can solve his problem. Saying something like, “This person (Will) could definitely solve that problem because he is amazing and smart.” As a result, Will’s reputation would get damaged because someone told the clients that he could actually solve the problem, but in reality, it’s out of Will’s expertise. 

3.Look for a trusted and honest salesperson.

If you are planning to hire a salesperson, make sure that they are honest. Having lesser yet successful clients is better than having lots of clients but only a few satisfied ones. If the salesperson exaggerates your services to give you leads, that’s a red flag, and you must immediately end your contract with him. Your salesperson will not be the one to suffer when you accept clients with complex problems that you can’t solve. Solving the actual problem is not as easy as your salesman endorsing your “amazingness in solving anything” to potential leads. Will had several unsatisfied clients because of this.

Another problem with David is that he doesn’t have a limitation on his commissions. What Will means is that David still asks for a commission from Will even if the client was the one who gave Will the lead. For example, David gave Will a client named France. Will did the project, and France was delighted with Will’s work, so France recommended Will to his friend, Paul. Now David still wants a commission on Will’s income with Paul, even though France was the one who referred Will. In David’s defense, he would say, “If it wasn’t for me, you will not get the work from France. And if you didn’t meet France, you won’t have the chance to meet Paul. So be thankful to me and give me a commission.” 

There were so many red flags, but because Will is kind and grateful to David, he just let it slide. He was also used to dealing with toxic people, so he was well aware of the consequences that might happen. But unlike the previous toxic people that Will met, David was the only one who really helped him develop his small agency. How long do you think Will’s patience will go? Well, let’s continue and find out. 

Will continued accepting clients from David while also working on David’s website. However, despite Will’s busy schedule, he always finds a day in a week or a particular time of the day to rest and do his own leisure activities. But when he finally finished David’s website, his days of having free time were over. Because aside from doing projects for clients and fixing David’s site, Will was also the host of these websites. 

There was that one hell of a week where Will was hosting six websites, including David’s. Maybe you think I am exaggerating too much, but you have to take note that this was all happening back in the early ’20s, where hosting a website also means that you are the one who will host their emails. Answering emails from 6 different websites is not an easy task, and you have to answer each customer as fast as you can. The owners of the various websites also rely on Will whenever their email is down. 

Will had no problem hosting the 5 client websites because they contain complete information and details of the prices, contact numbers, locations, and many more. Will would only receive fewer emails for each website. However, David’s website was different. Because David’s website was all about photography, Will gets tons of emails per week. 

David is strict and aggressive when it comes to answering emails. This one time, Will received a phone call from David at 5 am yelling at him because his email was “down” and he couldn’t earn money if that were the main problem. David also asked Will if he was trying to put him out of business because having your emails down means you will lose customers, and losing customers means you will not have sales. But the truth was the email wasn’t actually down. David was just trying to let Will answer his emails. 

If the emails were down because of Will, the remaining 5 websites that Will handled should have complained too. Will was the one who created all of that website, so he used the same process for all. If there was a problem with one website, all websites should experience the same problem as well. 

Will was too stressed to argue, so he just went to David’s apartment and fixed the problem. But Will couldn’t fix the problem because Will received a call from David again, saying that his email was down. Will kept on receiving angry phone calls from David, and he was confused why David would go berserk for a minor issue. 

Will received a phone call from David twice a week, but the last call he received was different. During this call, David told Will that he was not getting any leads anymore because of his email problems that Will didn’t fix. David added, “You’re too busy now because France introduced you to Paul and you’re working for them now, you don’t have time anymore for me.” This was where Will connected the dots. David was finally showing his manipulative side. 

David wanted to let Will feel like he was still the master and Will should still serve him because he was the one who gave a big help to Will. Because Will was still young at that time, and David was indeed the one who helped him and his agency, he doubled his efforts and worked non-stop for David’s website. David successfully manipulated Will because as soon as Will goes inside his office, he will then receive a phone call from David. Again, there is a “problem” with emails, and David needed to plan out a new section for his website. Sometimes David wants Will to work on a new project for his website, and there are also times where David would just call Will for 2 hours, telling his past stories to Will. David was manipulative again, but this time, it is much more grave. 

David would tell Will stories about how he helped a person that became ungrateful to him. He will also tell Will that he became furious with that ungrateful person and told Will the consequences. David added that his revenge was hating that person so much up to the point where he will never talk to that person again. Even when David wasn’t telling Will directly, you can clearly tell that David was trying to warn Will not to be ungrateful. David was also trying to control Will by trying to hit his conscience. 

Will was slightly bothered by these stories because he didn’t feel indebted to David anymore. He’s doing tasks for David out of pure kindness and generosity. Will was helping David to return the favor because that’s how professional Will is. Will didn’t even charge David for the special tasks he wanted for his website, plus Will was also giving David a commission whenever he got a client. But even after everything Will did, David still wanted to manipulate and control him by abusing his kindness. 

Will was bothered by the actions of David, but he still had his patience because he treated David as his mentor. David would advise and help Will with his agency’s problem. Will was still under David’s manipulative spell because right after those stories about being ungrateful, David then told him that he wants Will to be the executor of his will. 

David and his wife don’t have any children, and David already ended their relationship with his relatives and niece because of his story of having ungrateful relatives. David wants to inherit all of his fortunes to Will when he dies. This was again David’s form of manipulation. However, what David said was true. Will was talking to David’s lawyer, and they already agreed on some things regarding Will’s inheritance. 

But if you think of it, David wanted to repay Will for his kindness and help. However, he still wanted that payment to wait until his death. It’s as if David wants to repay Will, but he doesn’t want to lose money while he’s still alive. Will just went with the flow and continued working for David and his agency. 

But over time, Will was no longer receiving any leads from David as he used to. Remember that Will was helping David not because he feels like he is in debt, but because he is kind and wants to repay David for the help that he gave. This time, Will felt like he already repaid David’s kindness and wanted to focus on his agency. David somehow knew that Will was done repaying his debt and was ready to move on, so David waited for the perfect opportunity to save Will’s career. 

Fortunately for David, it happened. There was this one time where Will’s business hit rock bottom. Their agency had one full-time developer, and that person was also the powerhouse of Will’s company. But this person left Will to go to another agency right in the middle of a busy week. 

During those days, Will and the agency were working on sophisticated web-based applications, and they really needed help from that developer. Will was really down and stressed because they still had a lot of unfinished work. David came to the rescue and told Will that he knew a developing agency in India and he could contact them to help Will with his problem. This was David’s way to bring Will back into his debt, but Will decided that it was time to break the chain. Will did not accept David’s offer and told him that the job was too important to entrust to some foreign agency he had never met before. 

The Indian agency that David recommended had a good background, and they were very charming, as described by Will. Still, he couldn’t entrust his agency’s entire career to some random agency. Will also forethought what would happen if this agency fails to do the task, it would be a disaster, and a lawsuit could possibly join in the dispute. Right after Will declined David’s offer, he started to become independent. 

Being referred by someone is a good thing, but for Will, if you keep asking for leads and depend on a person to have clients, you and your agency will not grow. Because of this, Will started to look for clients on his own, and fortunately for him, he was introduced to a company named Minsk. The company gave Will some tasks, and Will outsourced some stuff to the company as well. 

Will and this company had a fantastic work relationship. This became a transitioning period for Will because right after he finished his task at Minsk, the contractor in Minsk had a friend in New York who was a great programmer. This programmer was also an author of some open-source modules that he used for programming frameworks. This programmer wanted Will’s services and gave him tasks. Will was again successful in making a client satisfied, so in return, this programmer again referred Will to one of his friends. This was when Will became independent, and he also found their agency’s main line of work. Will and the agency exited web development, and they were now focusing on Google ads and SEOs. 

During those days, Will noticed that their relationship with David changed. Even though Will was working on his own, he was still helping David with his website. One day, the huge computer manufacturer that was giving David leads provided him with a budget. David will be receiving $30,000 that he could use for developing his website. But the computer manufacturer didn’t directly give the $30,000 to David. Instead, they would just personally pay the vendor or anyone that would help in developing his website. 

After 8 years of developing David’s website, that was actually the first time real money was involved. Will was the one developing his website, and David only spent maybe a couple of hundred bucks for his site. Now, there is a $30,000 budget, and things are about to get messy. 

Will knows David’s attitude when it comes to money. Will already anticipated that David would become more aggressive, especially when the computer manufacturer will pay Will when he develops David’s website. However, this thought didn’t stop Will from continuing his work. Because they have a clear budget now, Will decided to redo the website and changed the design. Will started reformatting the website, reuploading and adding pictures, and many more. The results showed that Will was doing a great job because David’s website really transformed into this beautiful photo gallery.

Everything was looking great, but Will received a phone call from David complaining about everything on his website. David told Will that he wasn’t getting any leads anymore, and at a networking event, he met someone and told him that his website was crap and ugly. Will was shocked because of how aggressive David was on the phone call. 

This was a bad time for Will because his dog was in the hospital, and he was nervously waiting for the vet’s report regarding his dog’s health, and all of a sudden, David was yelling and insulting him. Will had enough, and his patience finally came to an end. Will decided not to talk to David anymore and hung up the call. That was the end of their relationship with David, and Will was finally free from that toxic relationship. 

After that day, Will realized that David was narcissistic and manipulative. He didn’t actually care for Will and his agency. David just wanted to control Will so that someone would do things for him without payment. David looked at Will as a nice blank slate that he could manipulate to become his slave. He did this by acting like he was helping Will and trying to solve Will’s problem, but the truth was he wasn’t really solving anything. 

4.Mental health is more important than money.

This is the most crucial lesson in Will’s client-horror story. When it came to ending his relationship with David, Will did not hesitate, even if it meant losing out on millions of dollars from David’s inheritance. His mental health was more important to him than whatever amount of money he would have had. Will would rather lose the money than lose himself in an antagonistic relationship filled with insults and abuse. 

Anyone who finds themselves in the position of having a customer pay only to be treated like trash should quit as soon as possible. You can always find money everywhere, but if you lose yourself because you become a doormat to an abusive and toxic client, it will take years to regain yourself back.

5.Choose your mentors wisely.

Will had no idea that David was a manipulative narcissist. At first, Will treated David as his mentor because of all the things that David did for him. But it was all an act to control Will and make him his personal slave. 

If you want to look up to someone and respect them as your mentor, make sure to do some due diligence first. There is a major twist in Will’s story because it turns out that Mark, his recent boss from high school, was not the villain of this story. 

Will didn’t end his relationship with Mark, and they were still exchanging emails. Will granted Mark little favors and was helping him because the eccentric and always shouting boss he knew back in high school became a gentle and caring person. A few years after Will ended his relationship with David, he received a call from Mark bringing him horrifying news. It turned out that Mark had cancer and was not getting any better. Mark entrusted his website that he had been working on for many years to Will on that day. Will tried to help Mark by giving him $2,500 to cover up a little bit of the expenses and other stuff. 

Mark called Will again and told him that he was going to pass away soon. He wanted Will to give $2,000 to his brother. Then he added, “Take the remaining 500 and go out to dinner with your wife to like the best restaurant that you can find.” 

Will’s story ended with the villain becoming a dear friend. That was the end of Will’s client-horror story, and if you made it until the last part, I’m pretty sure you weren’t expecting such a sad ending. We’ve cultivated plenty of useful and reminding lessons in this powerful story. 

As an appreciation for our sharer, take these lessons to heart, apply them to your daily business life, and avoid the red flags that Will encountered. Always be mindful of your actions because I wouldn’t like the idea that my readers would be the next person to share their client-horror stories. That’s kind of ironic.

This article was based upon episode #14, please watch the complete episode here.