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Client Horror Stories

My boss turned our client into a monster: A story of how my boss deceived me into spending exactly $1000 because that’s what our “monster” client asked.

My boss turned our client into a monster: A story of how my boss deceived me into spending exactly $1000 because that’s what our “monster” client asked.

This article was based upon Episode #12: Rachel Smith’s rich interview with Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!


“Look, just because you spend more doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be more profitable or make more money.” Rachel Smith.

Do you just love an employee who is dedicated to doing their jobs right? I meant those people who don’t tolerate even the slightest mistake in their work because they don’t want to mess things up. Those are the types of colleagues that I like to work with because it indicates that they are disciplined and well-mannered. 

But sometimes, getting too fixated on your task might lead to a bad habit. Strictly following the rules too much will also remove your creativity to experiment with things and your initiative to make your work faster or more efficient. Others are too fixated on something and become paranoid that they will lose their client if they make even a single mistake. This is more stressful if the too-fixated person is someone in authority; in short, your boss. 

This is exactly what happened to our sharer for today, Rachel Smith, who dealt with her overly fixated boss that prevented her from giving her 100%. You might want to stick around and read until the end because this story is quite unique from the rest of my articles, especially with the big twist at the end. We usually have sharers who give stories about their client-horror story, but this time around, we have a sharer who will tell us about her “boss-horror story.”

The whole thing started four years ago when Rachel was still working on an agency providing digital marketing services. Rachel’s boss got red cards all over his face because he is the agency’s CEO, and he thinks he knows the job of every single person in the department. The CEO thought he could build a website and run a successful PPC campaign, basically every expertise of Rachel and his team. 

Social media marketing is complex, and you have to study it for years to understand it, which is why social media marketers and other digital marketers exist. That is why the agency’s CEO hired Rachel and her team to help him with social media management. 

The agency’s CEO has this long legacy client, and the client is back to ask for help. A legacy client is somehow a yellow flag because you tend to do everything you can to maintain your relationship with them. They are called a legacy client for a reason. They kept on coming back to ask for help. Some might go as far as doing the job that their legacy client asks for free, just to maintain their loyalty.

Rachel and her team were tasked to do a PVP for this legacy client. However, the senior members of their agency were having a meeting with the client without someone who actually knows anything about digital marketing. Rachel wondered if the legacy client is asking for help related to digital marketing, why won’t the client let a digital marketer, such as herself, join the meeting? 

Rachel didn’t think of it as a red flag yet because maybe they were just having a good old chat, given that the legacy client is famous inside the agency. She also thought that since it was their first meeting with the client, maybe the seniors were introducing the new team of digital marketers to the client, and Rachel and his team will be joining at the next meeting.

1. Have the confidence to raise your concern

Don’t be afraid to raise a concern, especially if what was happening could have significant consequences on your task later on. In Rachel’s situation, she has every right to ask why she wasn’t involved in the meeting because, first of all, the legacy client wanted help regarding digital marketing. Rachel and her team were the digital marketers of that agency, so if the meeting was all about the given task, the agency’s CEO should at least invite them to attend. 

They can give their second opinions about the task and share some digital marketing tips with the client because Rachel is aware that the agency’s CEO and seniors involved couldn’t provide a detailed explanation of digital marketing. They may have little knowledge of how digital marketing works, but their information was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Digital marketing is more complex than just SEO, advertising, and social media management. Rachel did the right thing because despite having those thoughts in mind, she still made an effort to ask their seniors what the meeting was all about and why they were excluded from it. The CEO replied that the discussion wouldn’t be serious, and he will tell Rachel the gist of what they were talking about later on. Rachel, at that time, believed what the CEO told her and carried on with the task. 

Fortunately, there wasn’t anything malicious about the CEO’s actions, her thoughts lined up to the reason of the CEO, and her assumptions were right. They were just having a friendly chat with the legacy client. Rachel continued working on the task and doing all she could to get the best return of investment for their client’s ad spend at the end of the day. Rachel didn’t receive a specific CPA target yet, so she tried her best to do what she could. 

Now, this is where the maliciousness began.

The agency’s CEO gave Rachel and her team a thousand dollars as the monthly budget for the monthly PPC spending. There’s no problem there. One thousand dollars is actually a good amount to spend for a PPC. 

The first month came, and Rachel spent a total of $960 for the PPC. But as long as the money used for PPC doesn’t exceed the budget, there is no problem using the money as Rachel wanted for as long as they are getting the best return on investment. Furthermore, every digital marketer understands that it is hard to target the correct budget while running Google ad campaigns. Because the ratio of Google advertising fluctuates daily, you can’t accurately determine how much you spent on Google ads to arrive at exactly $1000. But to Rachel’s surprise, she was called by the CEO to ask about the budget. 

The CEO told Rachel that she should try her best to zero out the budget next time. Rachel was confused why the CEO would make $40 an issue. He saw the reports, and the return of investment was huge, so why would he fuss about a small amount. It’s not like Rachel spent only $500 or even $800 that it would be acceptable to call her attention. But Rachel didn’t voice this and agreed because she’s aware that the CEO doesn’t want to lose a legacy client. 

But when the CEO added that he has a friend who runs Facebook ads before and spent every penny running ad campaigns, Rachel felt agitated. She replied, “Well that is your first mistake because Facebook has lifetime budgets, unlike Google where the ads depend on their monthly budget.” The CEO’s reply was the first red flag that Rachel finally noticed.

Red flag #1

The frustrating problem with people who think they know everything won’t accept opinions, strong suggestions, and most especially, won’t admit their mistakes. Since the agency’s CEO is a know-it-all, he replied to Rachel, “Well, I disagree with you.” 

Someone who isn’t self-centered and prideful would know how and when to admit mistakes. Rachel is an expert for a reason and was hired as a digital marketer, so why would you disagree with an expert? There is a line between a client hiring you for your expertise and a client hiring you to become his to-do man. 

2. Evaluate if you were hired for your expertise

This is often rampant in the business industry, so make sure to be mindful of this lesson. There is a difference between a technician and a wiring specialist. When an agency hires you as a “technician,” you should expect that you will be told what to do, what not to do, what to work, where you should go, and treat you like a low-class worker. 

But if someone hires you as a wiring specialist, you should expect that your knowledge about wirings is highly appreciated. All your opinions about wirings and other tech problems are trusted, and the employer will listen because they hired you for your expertise. 

In Rachel’s case, she was hired by the agency because their company doesn’t have a digital marketing specialist. The CEO should have listened to what Rachel said because she knows digital marketing more than him. 

Rachel tried to voice out and educate him as respectfully as possible about the basics of Google ad campaigns, but the CEO still doesn’t want to listen. Rachel couldn’t do anything but walk out of the meeting feeling a little bit perplexed. Rachel continued working, and the CEO kept meeting with the legacy client again, not inviting her. 

Still, she continued working until the end of the month came. Rachel sent a report again stating that she spent the budget near enough, maybe around $980. She thought the CEO wouldn’t make this an issue anymore because spending $980 out of $1000 is already a big achievement when you spend it on Google ad campaigns. 

But Rachel spoke too soon as the CEO gave her a note written in bold saying, “Please make sure you spend all of the budget.Another month came, and Rachel still didn’t manage to spend the whole budget, but she spent $990 this time. The CEO dragged Rachel into a meeting, and he created a huge fuss about the budget issue. Rachel was annoyed at how the CEO is making an issue about a $10 off. 

The CEO added that the client doesn’t want a penny left. The client also told the CEO that the most crucial strategy that they need to do is that they need to spend their whole budget on Google ad campaigns, not more and not less. Rachel then asked if that is her overall KPI and should she follow this rule. The CEO said yes, your KPI is spending all the budget up to the last penny. 

Rachel didn’t receive a KPI until that time, so she was doing everything she could to get the best return of investment for the client, but now because of this KPI, she is trying her best to spend the whole budget even if it won’t give them the best return of investment. Rachel agreed to the CEO, but she wrote down all of the things that the CEO told her so that when the client asks why the return of investment is low, she can show the transcript of their conversation. 

What the CEO doesn’t know is that spending the exact $1000 on Google ad campaigns will only get a $600-$700 return on ad spend. But if you let someone work freely and limit their budget to $1000, the person could gain a $900 return on ad spend even if they just spent around $800-$900 only.

3. Disagree if it doesn’t make sense

We all have our own line of expertise when in the business industry. Some are architects because they are an expert at designing structures. Others are plumbers because they know how to fix the problems in your toilet. The point is, we all have a specialty. In Rachel’s case, she is more knowledgeable than the CEO in terms of digital marketing. She should have voiced out and at least tried to explain that the CEO was wrong.

Rachel passed the account to one of her colleagues and told the guy that she needs help spending exactly $1000 on Google ad campaigns. The guy replied, saying the request was ridiculous and the return of investment would be low if she spent precisely $1000. Rachel replied that she knows it’s absurd, but she begged her colleague to help her just to prove her point to the CEO. 

Rachel’s colleague tried to, but the bank was unfortunately closed because of a holiday that month, so the results will not be seen for three weeks. It is way beyond schedule, so Rachel didn’t push through with her plan. She just wanted to look at the CEO’s reaction when he saw the result and tell him, “Look, just because you spend more doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be more profitable or make more money.” 

But Rachel then remembered that the CEO told him exactly what the client wanted, and it was not the CEO’s call to spend all the whole budget. Maybe the CEO also thinks that it is absurd, but he wanted to keep the legacy client, so no matter how ridiculous the task is, he wants to do it anyway for the sake of loyalty. 

With that in mind, Rachel wanted to talk to the client, but the problem is that the CEO won’t invite Rachel to their meeting. Then another thought came to Rachel’s mind; she concluded that maybe the CEO protected Rachel from the legacy client. 

Now, Rachel has already perceived an image of the client who doesn’t allow minor mistakes, doesn’t want changes, and could not act freely on the products without the client’s approval.

Rachel tried to understand the CEO and continued working on the task. Rachel survived another month, but this time, instead of spending less than a thousand, she spent $1004 on Google ad campaigns. 

Rachel said to herself that they have been spending less than the budget, so maybe it is okay to spend more than the budget. It’s not like the budget exceeded a hundred dollars. Maybe the CEO won’t mind. Also, Rachel already told the CEO before they even started working that whenever they exceed the budget, they can provide scripts so that the campaign will pause if it hits a particular spend. 

Rachel again spoke too soon as the CEO lost his mind because Rachel overspent the budget. 

Rachel told the CEO that she could add the scripts and the CEO angrily said that he doesn’t want any script on that account. Rachel then explained that there is a specific process that they should follow in spending Google ad campaigns. That is why if they aim to spend the whole $1000 budget, they should expect that sometimes it will exceed $1000. But Rachel could guarantee that the excess wouldn’t reach a hundred dollars. 

The CEO told Rachel not to follow the process and just focus on spending the exact amount on the Google ad campaigns. Rachel tried to ask for a logical explanation why the CEO is afraid of paying less or more than the budget, but then she remembered that their client was a legacy client. 

Rachel couldn’t do anything but wonder why somebody would lose their mind over a couple of pounds excess. Rachel made an action to this matter by scheduling a meeting with the CEO to explain how ad campaigns work. Rachel had to tell the CEO that they have to talk about the actual KPIs because nobody benefited from the previous KPI anymore. The client isn’t gaining anymore because it is becoming unprofitable. The same with Rachel’s team because they spend most of their time trying to reach a clean $1000 instead of actually trying to make a more significant return on investment. 

However, despite how hard Rachel tries to explain the concept of Google ad campaigns, the CEO refuses to believe her sentiments and still wants to pursue the KPI of the legacy client. Now the next month came around, Rachel spent the closest to $1000 she ever had. The report came, and Rachel spent $998 of the budget. But unfortunately, it still wasn’t good enough for the CEO. 

4. Avoid someone who is prideful and egoistic

Rachel’s client has more pride than you can imagine. He still refuses to understand the concept of Google ad campaigns that it came to the point where he believes he knows more than the expert. The CEO persists in his idea that if a Facebook ad campaign can exhaust the whole budget, so can Google ad campaigns. 

This is an excellent reminder for everyone to be mindful of people like these and always remember that a company is not a one-person show. There are valuable members of a company that makes it function. You can create your own clothing business without actually knowing how to make clothes. You can be the leader and hire experts who don’t know anything about managing a company but are veterans in creating high-quality fabrics and producing beautiful clothing that represents your brand. 

Rachel had enough of it and wanted to know why the CEO acted crazy even if the budget was only $2 off. Rachel told the CEO that she wanted to be in the next meeting when the legacy client comes into the company. She added that if she’s still uninvited, she will force her way into the meeting and get to the bottom of the issue. 

5. Communication is important 

If something feels off and you don’t understand the situation anymore, don’t hesitate to communicate with the source of the misunderstanding. In Rachel’s case, the CEO was not the source of the problem because he only wants to follow the legacy client’s KPI. 

To Rachel, the CEO was really afraid of the client because maybe the client is strict or way more prideful than him. At least, that is what the CEO is trying to describe the client. 

The next meeting came, and Rachel was invited. The meeting started, and the client asked about the PPC section. Rachel immediately raised her concern and asked the legacy client to help her understand his ultimate goal for his PPC campaigns. Rachel expected that the legacy client would get furious and she’ll be reprimanded. She recalled how the CEO kept on reminding Rachel about the legacy client’s words, “Use up all the budget.” Which Rachel wasn’t able to do for the past five months. 

But the next thing that happened was shocking. The legacy client smiled and said, “Well, make as much money as possible and make me a millionaire overnight.” The legacy client said it in a friendly way as if he was trying to tell a joke to Rachel. The client’s main point was to do anything just to make him money, and he didn’t mention anything about spending the exact budget. 

At that point, Rachel realized what the CEO was trying to do. The CEO wanted Rachel to spend all the budget, even if the return on investment is small because the more funding the client gives him, the more management fee he will receive. 

Bigger money means a bigger management fee for the CEO because he was in charge of managing the budget. The CEO was afraid that if the client realizes that Rachel could provide a huge return on investment, even with just $900 or less, the legacy client might reduce the budget. Also, the CEO was afraid of losing the legacy client. That was why, when Rachel exceeded the budget, the CEO completely lost his mind. 

 6. Being overly fixated is a problem

Being dedicated to a certain goal is okay, but if it comes to a point where you will neglect other opinions, close your mind for suggestions, or even break away from a clean and efficient process just to achieve your goal, then that’s where it will ruin everything. 

You will become too obsessed with a goal, increasing your tendency to forget everything else that actually mattered. Rachel’s agency’s CEO was so focused on his objective that he overlooked the most crucial need of the client: a higher return on investment.

Also, those people who are so fixated on those issues are the ones who won’t make time or can’t make time to educate themselves. It’s always “I’m too busy to talk to you about your suggestions. This is what I want, I’m obsessed with this goal and I will only mind my own idea.” Those are the kinds of people who are hard to deal with, so make sure to stay away from them and save yourself from stress.

Rachel’s story also shows that internal communication is essential. When the CEO was having a breakdown when Rachel overspent $4, that just means that he can’t talk it over with the legacy client. Most of the clients won’t even react when the budget exceeds only $4. I mean, if you have good communication with your client, you can just freely tell that client that “I went $4 over the budget, can I invite you for a cup of coffee instead? My treat!” 

Now back to the story. The CEO painted the legacy client as an absolute monster, but the truth is the legacy client is actually a funny guy. Rachel described the legacy client as insanely tall, a six-foot-five monster who has a body built like a rugby player. The CEO was definitely right on that part of him looking like a monster. But on the inside, the legacy client was an absolute teddy bear, according to Rachel. 

The legacy client was a good and respectable man, and the CEO blocked Rachel from this opportunity to meet this legacy client. 

If only Rachel knew the legacy client was actually a great guy, she would have neglected their middleman and gone directly to the client. She would have given this legacy client 100% of her effort and had given him a huge return on investment. If only she weren’t preoccupied with spending the exact budget as the CEO asked her to do, the client would have earned a lot in just five months. The legacy client even told Rachel that he was glad to meet her. He added, “I want to make sure that you’re in all of the meetings because I really value your inputs.”

That was the end of Rachel’s story, and it turned out pretty well for her. Rachel was saved because of her immediate actions. The wisest decision that Rachel made was when she finally asked to meet with the legacy client to clear things out. If she continued to follow the CEO, it could have ended way worse than that. Make sure to follow what Rachel did and apply it to your daily business lives to avoid creating your own client-horror story. 


This article was based upon episode #12, please watch the complete episode here.