This article was based on Episode #15: Collin Slattery’s Pandemic Story with an ending full of valuable lessons, presented here for us for Collin himself and, of course, Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!
Morgan (Host): Hey everyone, welcome to the latest edition of ‘Client Horror Stories’ where we dive into Client Horror Stories to extract lessons so that others don’t make the same mistakes as we did. I’m honored today to have the one and only Collins Slattery here. Thank you for joining me on the Zoom call.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Thanks, Morgan. It’s good to be here. I’m excited to share my story. And hopefully, I can get some lessons out of it for other people. So, they don’t experience the same thing.
Morgan (Host): Hopefully something good comes outcomes out of it.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): That’s right.
Morgan (Host): Let’s, let’s jump right in. I have my tea and am ready to go.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Well, I mean, we have so many different options to choose from. But I think the one I wanted to talk about was clients not listening and ignoring Red Flags. And not listening to yourself when you know what is going to happen and not trusting yourself,
Morgan (Host): Not trusting your gut.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): That’s right. Yeah.
Morgan (Host): You experience a lot of pain before you learn to listen to your gut, which usually knows the correct answer.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Well, sometimes you have to relearn the same lessons even once you’ve learned them before. But we certainly can help other people reduce the number of situations they run into with clients who do not care as much about their business as we do.
Morgan (Host): Oh, this sounds like a good teaser. So let this soak. What’s the context of the background for this client? Tell us the story.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Sure. I do a lot of work with small DTC brands and new e-commerce brands with different verticals. It was last year in 2020 when we started working together in April or May and then stopped working together in August.
Morgan (Host): Let me only point out that this was just as the pandemic was getting out of hand. Everyone was worried about what would happen next, so crazy clients were likely to be even crazier than before.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yes. Our client was not doing any advertising, and also they were not happy with the previous agency. They were bad-mouthing the prior agency continuously, which was Red Flag number one.
Morgan (Host): I want to interrupt by saying that’s an excellent Red Flag to point out. Bad-mouthing the previous agency is a Red Flag that I did not realize when I was younger. If you start dating a girl who only talks about her ex-boyfriends negatively, would you think that she had so many terrible ex-boyfriends or that every guy was horrible? Or maybe you are doing something wrong?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Exactly, that is the perfect analogy for it. I suppose they had something poor to say about one agency, but they were only burning through them without saying anything. I should have brought a Red Flag prop for this. Maybe we can Photoshop one in, raising a Red Flag. So that was something I ignored in that discovery process. But one thing that I’ve noticed is that when we go into a broader discussion of early companies, there are plenty of things that go into successful advertising. To those who are listening or possibly watching; understand that advertising is just one component of a successful system. We bring traffic to the website. But in the end, your products will help. How well your website converts? What do your emails look likes?
It is a whole ecosystem of factors that go into success and advertising. So, being an experienced advertiser, I work with lots of brands. I will frequently work with these small clients and give them lots of suggestions on how you should do with email marketing. I’m not an email marketer, but I understand what is necessary and provide advice on things they should do. I do not run a CRO agency, but I use Hotjar and advise moving calls to action up to get better conversions and help with the other elements of the business that ultimately are necessary for them to succeed.
This client had a belief that advertising is magic. They have to do nothing if the advertisement is not working, and if the ads are not working, it is the advertisers’ fault. There are instances where they only pass the buck to someone in the blue when they suggest improving your CRO. They were trying to blame the brands for the failure of the advertising.
Morgan (Host): That’s a good point. I have encountered potential clients who think that good advertising can solve all the problems. Did you realize that before you started working with him? Did you signal his attitude before you started? Or have you since developed ways in which you can sniff smell? Because it is essential to avoid this kind of attitude.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah. There were definite signs for us to see. One of the things that the previous agency told them was to get their email marketing set up to run better. For instance, set up Klaviyo, which was one of the primary email marketing systems for TDC. And figure out transactional sort of problems. Their complaint about the last agency was that they did not feel like taking responsibility for their failures. And I wanted to do business with them, so we got them as our client, but the other agency was right on many things. They just had no interest in investing in the business from their side of things.
So, I started incorporating a process to move forward. As a result, I began asking questions about what they do in other areas and how they approach things like Klaviyo for email marketing? By asking them about CRO, landing pages, and email flow, I was hoping to gain a better understanding of the situation.
Were they having success with those criteria or not? Our advertising would fit into the overall structure of their business based on what they put into it and how successful their web business is. Advertising isn’t just a magic money tree where you shake it in, and profit comes out without thinking about it. They just wanted to sit there and count money without making an effort.
Morgan (Host): I have found out that clients with that attitude can never be convinced, especially if they believe in magic. To avoid taking on clients like this, I like to use questions.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yes, you’re right. Those who can be persuaded that the wrong is wrong are definitely the exceptions. I haven’t found one yet. So I haven’t found an exception to the rule. However, it is unfortunate to see such people who believe that what’s happening is not their fault. It is just our fault for being a poor advertiser.
Morgan (Host): I know most humans think this way because the alternative is to see the world as a set of really complex small variables. It’s harder to understand and process the world if there are a million tiny adjustments to be made, opposed to being just good or bad.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): And it’s also hard to admit, and I also struggle with this, and I’m sure most people here probably do. That’s something you believe, and when you get data to the contrary, you often double down on it. And it’s not an easy thing to do, by any stretch of the imagination, but digital advertising and digital marketing, is a data-driven world, and we have to trust the data. If it tells us something is wrong, we should examine it and consider it.
Morgan (Host): Totally, I want to get a quote in here that I think is relevant. King John Maynard Keynes, the famous early 20th-century economist, was popular for changing his mind on major political issues. Once, he was at a press conference, where one of the reporters asked him, “Why did you change your mind so much? What about intellectual consistency?” to which Keynes had the beautiful response; “When I get new data, I come to a new conclusion. What do you do, sir?”
Collin Slattery (interviewee): This encapsulates what you shouldn’t do and what you should do with digital things. It also clearly speaks to his intellect that he was able to do it so naturally and easily.
Morgan (Host): It also speaks to his humor because I love how he ended that with a sir, “what do you do, sir?” It is justified as a fuck you, so he was also clearly a funny guy.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah, I was not familiar with that quote until you shared it, but I like it and will probably start using it. I’ll write it down and memorize it.
Morgan (Host): Get some value from this. By the way, for the podcast notes for each episode, we’ve been calling out the literary quotes that one of us uses to have a small literary moment.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I will say that you are primarily the literary guy. So I don’t know; I do not have much to contribute.
Morgan (Host): The time I spent on these crazy musical quotes to make points about the crazy client was a reasonable investment, so feel free to use song quotes if it’s more fun.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I might get some family guy quotes in there. I can’t promise you anything. Unfortunately, or fortunately, perhaps that’s about the level I operate.
Morgan (Host): No judgments! So now that we have all the context about the Red Flags, he had magical thinking, and as you started working with him, you realized that the other agencies’ warnings were correct. So, what happened next?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): One of the first things we do is; get their advertising set up in the way. We get it listed, every agency has their systems, we have the structures that we work with, and then we go through their data and the stuff we are working with. In this case, there were a lot of problems, particularly from the conversion side. So I used Google Analytics and Hotjar to identify areas where there was conversion loss.
When a website takes too long to load, no one will buy anything. As a result, I attempted to identify the areas that needed improvement. Because of that, the advertising wasn’t performing that well. We were not having an aggressive sale, which is another aspect of this if you want to discuss it. I was investing a lot of time in something I did not necessarily need to invest in, but I wanted to see them succeed.
I put together large documents with the report from Hotjar and some recordings to demonstrate where people were getting stuck when comparing mobile traffic with desktop traffic in Google Analytics. We also discussed; how their bounce rate and conversion rate were significantly worse on mobile since their pages were not optimized. And what they should do to fix it, but they never had any interest in that. And the answer was I don’t think it’s a problem with the website.
We never had a problem with the website. I don’t think your advertising is good Here are some things you can do to improve your advertising. And, you know, I was kind of offended because the advertising was good as it was getting a lot of people to the website, but it was not converting them to potential clients. There is a possibility that part of the problem was the advertising, but I also identified through data what they should do to improve.
The company rejected the idea that maybe there were issues with the website and they should fix them, not just me with my magic money tree not shaking it properly.
Morgan (Host): This is very interesting. It is good to get color on this guy’s magical thinking. I want to point out a Red Flag that went off in my head. He told you about the things you should do. That is another Red Flag to look out for. You must differentiate between healthy clients who trust you as a professional and expert and unhealthy ones who know nothing but tell you exactly what to do.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yes. That is a huge red flag. I mean, this client’s Red Flags are all over the place, and we’ll be identifying them all over the podcast. Yeah, the best clients are always the ones who hired us because we are professional. They trust us to get their job done. But if someone says, I’d be doing it myself, but I don’t have the time, just run away, run away from them.
Morgan (Host): That’s a great nuance, and I would add another nuance to it. I’ve also seen that sometimes clients’ happiness changes over time. They are happy at first, but they become more frustrated over time, perhaps due to a poor program manager or account manager or account executive that they’re working with.
In the beginning, they’re optimistic that the results will be better than they expected. It’s realistically possible. Over the years, I’ve seen clients gradually switch from being hands-off to increasingly meddling, which is why it’s essential to be sensitive to change because clients getting more involved with details usually indicates that they are less satisfied with your work.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yes. It is always a bad sign when a client starts getting nitpicky about things. And that is not a good sign for sort of client longevity. And frequently, it’ll be something that’s not even related to you. But if they want to be incredibly hands-on at the beginning and tell you what to do, it is not a good sign for you.
Morgan (Host): Whether it is in the beginning, middle, or end, it is never a good sign.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Absolutely not!
Morgan (Host): And also, to be clear, it’s not always because the client is annoying. Sometimes, we are just not good enough, and we have to recognize that, especially if we speak to younger versions of ourselves. Due to our lack of experience, sometimes the clients are justified in being frustrated in this way.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Sure. Sometimes the math doesn’t work out. And that’s a bit different topic. Sometimes, the business that they have and where their business is just doesn’t lend itself to advertising. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be your fault, their fault, or anybody’s fault. It just is not a situation where it’s going to work. And that’s a frustration for everyone. It’s a situation where you’ll put in more work and lose money because you’re working too much. And it’s still not working. And sometimes, we cannot make this work, but we try our best. That’s right.
Morgan (Host): So, after this client started meddling more, giving you suggestions, what happened next?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Their meddling started pretty early, actually. They told me exactly what images to run on the Facebook ads. Don’t use this copy, don’t save that, save that. So that was pretty early on. I tried to push back, ultimately, but I wanted the client, and I wanted money. So I let them dictate what was going on. And it didn’t work.
I posted many reasons that their website wasn’t good enough, but also that what they were telling me to do didn’t match what I believed was right. I expressed my thoughts on their ideas which were not powerful enough since I had seen this work with other similar clients, but ultimately, I let them dictate me, and it didn’t work, and I got blamed for it.
Morgan (Host): Before we go to the ones to blame, I have a question about that. So, they pushed you to do something that you knew will not work. They wanted you to use these images of certain types. At times, I feel I should have a policy of when a client crosses the line we push them back, but in my professional judgment, I think we shouldn’t do this. If they agree with me, that’s great.
But if they disagree with me, I often think I should be more strict because they crossed the line. Sometimes I feel like the metaphor is with lawyers as they have a similar back and forth with their clients to get the fair wording in the contract. But if a client puts something that the lawyer thinks is illegal or bad, overheard the client, like lawyers. Lawyers will simply refuse to do it. I think PBCs and digital advertisers should have that similar legal ethics. What do you think?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): It is something I struggle with. I agree with you. And I think if you’re in a position where you can do it. You should be prepared to lose a client over a situation like that, where you feel like, ‘No, I will not do what you say.’ In our case, it went to the point where their response was, ‘Okay, I’ll find someone else who will.’ So you have to be in a position where you’re okay with that. I always talk about the Hippocratic Oath, which says, ‘First do no harm, do not harm the clients.’
And I try to operate it in everything I am doing. Being told what to do by a client is a challenging situation. In my professional experience, I have advised that this is a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it, but then they were like, “Go for it.”. It is a difficult position to be in. Because ultimately, they pay your retainer.
But if you are in a better place to say no, then that’s good. I know many people, who earlier on in their careers, did not have the luxury of getting rid of work and income. But I have thought in such situations; we should have them sign a document that says, “This is being done against my professional recommendations, and I am not responsible for the results of this action.”
Morgan (Host): I have to say, I like this idea. I can tell them where to click Agree, Agree, Agree, and type their name with a simple word. It will make things clear and objective. Along with using the Keynes quote that I gave you, I will ask clients to sign their names when they ask me to do things that they shouldn’t.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I think it’s an excellent tool. I haven’t used it yet. But I think it’s a very valuable tool in concept because that’s put them in place. It would be better to have in contracts that there is no guarantee of specific results, as well as all kinds of other clarifications so that your clients can’t sue you because you’re in the worst position since it’s like they’re forcing you to do this. Because if it doesn’t work out, and then they sue you over it, even though it was their idea, and they force you to do it.
Having this sort of document protects you against that to a degree, but it also puts it back in their court, so they will now have to own it. I was told to do this; it wasn’t my idea, I had nothing to do with it, and I expect them to acknowledge that they did this, regardless of how strongly I argued against it. So, present them a copy of the document to sign because I will not own their doings. And maybe they won’t do it, but if you do it, you are less vulnerable to some of the downside risks.
Morgan (Host): What I like about that idea is the psychological power behind it. It makes the other person more sure that they want to do things their way.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): It slows down the process because a lot of times it’s natural to get worked up and you’re spinning your wheels, and this can put the brakes a bit on it, so they can take their time, think about it more, and hopefully come up with a more reasonable solution, at least in theory. I hope people will apply it and, then let me know how it works.
Morgan (Host): Yes, send both of us emails with your contact information below.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Right there exactly.
Morgan (Host): I need to do YouTube videos these days. It is interesting!
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Hit the bell and subscribe!
Morgan (Host): The sad part is they do that because it works.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yep, they split tested it, they have the data.
Morgan (Host): Exactly! I will backtrack to something you said about five minutes ago that I thought was interesting. The Hippocratic Oath, “First do no harm.” Because I’m a pretentious asshole. I usually say it in Latin Premam, no notturay. So, I will admit, I’m an anti-Hippocratic Oath guy. My response to the Hippocratic oath would be that you have to break an egg to make an omelet. In other words, you often have to do small amounts of painful things to get more benefits.
A very modern example is vaccines. What is a vaccine? They take a tiny version of that disease, and with that, you become inoculated against it. So, if a client, employee, or partner is disrespectful, having a painful conference with a hurtful conversation becomes necessary. Because bringing the issues out to the front and discussing them is usually good. It will lead to fewer problems when things accumulate and then explode.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I don’t even really view that as harming. When I think about harming, I generally think about specific things like dangerous ad records, truly wasteful advertising, etc. Because ultimately, we do have to break a few eggs. So, working with clients where we have an experimental budget, I tell them that the thing about testing is that it’s not all going to work. Shit is going to fail spectacularly.
And it’s good because that’s a learning experience. I don’t want them to waste lots of money on stuff that isn’t going to work. And one of my favorite examples, which I use all the time, is how about pulling these images from other websites and using them? What is there to lose? The photo-sharing companies are going to sue you, and it’s $5,000 each time. Just pay the $10. I will not use images that you pulled from somebody’s website. Once, they were like, let’s build a mobile app for $50,000.
First of all, I said, it’s not in my advertising sort of area, but you’re a small moving company in New York City; why do you need an app? Is anyone downloading your iPhone app? No, they’re not. So don’t bother. It’s a waste of money. If I say, “Do no harm.” I actually mean no harm. Painful conversations are ultimately usually where the real growth happens. So, I don’t consider them that harmful because they’re better for them.
Morgan (Host): I guess it’s a question of harm. What is the harm? I know many people, I’m also New Yorker, and New Yorkers are very blunt and straightforward. So, seeing the difficult things does not mean harmful; it is just how they talk in New York. They say the blunt truth regardless of being harmful or hurtful. I lived in California, San Francisco for a long time, and no one wants to say anything that’s not nice to anyone ever. They’d rather ghost and disappear but won’t say anything that is not nice. You need a few hard conversations because hard conversations make growth and learning happen. If you haven’t shared that little bit of toughness in that conversation, both sides won’t improve for the future.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yep, growth is uncomfortable. You will never find growth improvement and expansion in your comfort zone, whether that’s relationships or advertising. If you’re running an agency or freelancing, you will see the most improvement in your business when you will do something a little beyond your capabilities. You might feel uncomfortable and concerned about it, but that’s how you get better and grow. If you’re doing the same things that you have always been doing, you’re not growing.
Morgan (Host): I agree. Okay, so let’s get back on track. So, you were working with a guy who was meddling and pressuring you to make changes that were against your professional judgment. You didn’t yet have an idea to make them sign something. So, how does it end? I am excited about the climax of the drama.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): The ending was pretty messy. They were not happy at all. In the end, I got stiffed for two months of work. I received angry phone calls saying we won’t pay you. Another lesson is don’t keep working if they stop paying the bills. It felt like nobody won in this situation. I had put way too much work on something and invested way too much effort and energy on my side of the equation when they were not willing or able to do it themselves.
It did not feel like a partnership; I felt like I was doing everything, and still, I was never good enough. There was a lot of contentiousness as well as unpaid wages and retaliation. I was angry, and to be clear, no one was happy. It was simply not working, so let’s call it best of luck. It was more like, fuck you, I don’t know if we can curse on here. Maybe you can put a big leap thing over me when I say.
Morgan (Host): No, I like using vulgarity. It presets emotions and strength.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah, I was pissed. And they were unhappy too. Our company invests a lot in our clients and ensures that they’re successful. Listeners of the podcast can learn and improve as long as they invest all that effort; surely it is a relationship.
In other words, if you’re investing all this time, effort, and energy into this relationship to help it succeed, and they’re just lying there doing nothing and then blaming you for it failing. It sucks. You will feel unappreciated. Our situation was horrible, and it is something that I avoid now. It has been a little over a year, and I more comfortably recognize Red Flags due to this experience.
Morgan (Host): These are all great lessons. My question is, what mistakes did you make during this process?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): My biggest mistake was, I let them dictate me way too much. I was too agreeable, and I struggled with setting up boundaries. It is something I still struggle with. I used to get something on a Saturday morning and have to send it out Sunday afternoon. I never received follow-up emails. If you let people walk all over and do not set appropriate client-provider boundaries, it will happen to you too.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, I like to say, “Great fences make great neighbors.” You do not have any fences, so it is tough for you. You want them to help to succeed.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah. Overall, it’s to your detriment, ultimately to theirs, and your other clients as well. Over the last year, I’ve become very good at saying, like, I won’t be able to do this until X date. And clients will have an expectations agreement at the beginning, where they can expect some degree of communication during business days to business hours. They need to get things to us at a certain time because we have other clients, and we can’t put their well-being above every other client. They have expectations and stuff that is needed to be done too. If they can’t get something to me on a Saturday and expect it to be done on a Sunday. That’s unfair to everyone. So I’ve gotten much better about boundary setting.
Morgan(Host): A subtle detail I want to add is that it is vital to do that at the start. Because the way you act in the beginning sets the expectations forever. In the beginning, if you are responding Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Saturday 4 am. They will think you’ll be doing this forever. So if you want them to say it’s Saturday, I am just not going to respond to my client, then that’s when the disappointment sinks in.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yes. So we have an expectations agreement that we send during the kickoff process that the client has to agree to rules for how the engagement will work because we want to have a long and successful partnership. But that means there are expectations for us, and that means there are expectations for them as well. Every partnership is a relationship. We will succeed together or fail together.
But there are things that we expect of them as a client. And there are things they expect from us as an agency in this engagement. This technique sets a good foundation for a respectful and agreeable engagement where both parties know where the other party stands and what they can expect to get out of it.
Morgan (Host): What I find interesting about that is on a personal level, I do the same thing, but I’d never heard the phrase Expectation Agreements before. I write my semi-standard documents concerning my work and what are they expected to do. But I like the idea of codifying it into a formal contract; it makes things very clear at the beginning.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): We talked about it on our kickoff call, and I provided the document to the clients because it is essential. We can do great work, but it’s also about expectations. Setting expectations correctly can lead to a 5x return for a client. Our efforts fall short of expectations if they expected to get 10x. So in my experience, it is significant to have them set up the expectations so that everyone knows what the situation is and what is being expected of each other.
Morgan (Host): This is great! Any other lessons or process changes that you made after this experience?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): One of the expectations agreement is to not continue to work for clients who do not pay. Similarly, we sent out our July invoices just yesterday because we build invoices at the start of the month. It was July 2 when we were filming this. So we sent our invoices for work done in July. If by August 1, a client has not paid for July, have a conversation about that. There are extenuating circumstances that can arise, such as checks in the mail. So I’m not saying that this has to be a hard and fast rule.
But by August 15 if the July check has not arrived then there is no more to work. Get them a reminder halfway through July. I will personally reach out towards the end of the month, but we’ll stop working. Because if you let a client keep working for you for three, four months without getting any payment, you’ll never get paid. It is a professional engagement that they pay you for your work. If you continue to work without getting paid, your work loses value. So definitely not letting people not pay was another lesson.
Now, there is another rule I had to learn multiple times in my career. This is a sort of discovery and something that happens from time to time, and I think people, in general, should keep working on improving all aspects of their business. I have spent a lot of time and energy on the discovery process, pre-proposal process, and weeding out people before I even invest time and energy into putting together a proposal for them to ensure that they are a good fit.
Not just someone who expects magic from you, but someone who’s invested in the success of their business just as much as you’re invested in that success and screening for those people during the discovery process.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, that makes sense. Have you found any formal ways to do this? I screen for that also. After two or three meetings, I usually have a sense of what needs to be done. But what I haven’t done is, ‘okay, here’s a question or a test or a thing to do’ that gives me a strong clue. Have you found any tricks like that?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): There is one question that I love to ask. That is what experiments have you run recently? And how did they go? If they’re testing and experimenting, they’re showing both an understanding of how to run their business and also an investment in improving it. The testing provided the opportunity to incrementally improve their ads and landing pages because they were split testing them. And if they were running tests on their own, it indicates a level of investment. In my experience, it is a good sign that they’re willing to put in work and effort to improve their own business because they’re doing testing on their own.
Morgan (Host): I like this. I might add that question to my discovery as well.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): It’s great. It’s very interesting. Sometimes the kind of things that they end up testing is emailing, UI/UX type things, but testing is critical. And if a client is testing on their own, it’s great. And you should be testing too on your stuff. So everything needs to ABT, Always Be Tested.
Morgan (Host): I might use that phrase as well ABT.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): It’s great. I highly recommend adding it to your discovery call for sure.
Morgan (Host): Okay, this is good. So, the New Yorker me will say that your story isn’t the most gripping story I’ve heard. But what I do like about your conversation is we had a normal story, but we’ve extracted a whole bunch of super exciting lessons. I feel like we squeezed the lemon dry for this story which is superb. Usually, we have a crazy story, but with one or two small lessons.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah, In terms of a relationship, like a dating standpoint, I haven’t had any nightmares, like, the person peed on the table or something.
Morgan (Host): but I’m glad that no one is peeing at your table.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I think you can get more actionable insights from events that aren’t such aggressive outliers because they’re more likely to happen as they’re more common. There will be more situations like that where a client comes to your home and threatens to beat you up with a baseball bat. There aren’t many actionable things you can take away from that, except maybe that you need to keep a crowbar in your apartment.
Morgan (Host): That’s not such a great point. I will make a stronger version of your point. If you only learn from huge things, that means you’re a poor student. When someone has to drop a nuclear bomb on you to teach you to not invade innocent countries, that means you’re a batsman, but the good student is the one who notices tiny little things that led to that to improve himself.
So even if this story didn’t involve anyone peeing on your dinner table, it did say, ‘Oh, wait, we should have an expectations agreement. And we should get them to sign their name. If they want us to do any changes that are against our professional judgment, then they have to own it.’ These factors probably go a long way towards preventing nuclear bombs.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): That’s right. The nuclear bomb will detonate once it’s detonated. So, it’s probably better to keep it out of the way.
Morgan (Host): I love these. And again, I’m going to adopt these into my process. Any other concluding thoughts on the client lessons learned that changed you? Or is that enough for today?
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Oh, I mean, we could go on for hours and hours talking about all kinds of different client lessons. Be judicious in your discovery process. I like to think that you’re not just winning their business; they’re winning your expertise too. It’s like dating; you’re qualifying them as much as they’re qualifying you.
Morgan (Host): The more you try to qualify, the more life will pass you by. Is that okay? Sorry. It’s a CAKE song. I’ve been doing too many Latin quotes. It was my favorite 21st-century band.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): You had me more in Latin because I did take Latin, but I don’t remember much of it. But I did take it.
Morgan (Host): Do you not know CAKE? CAKE is my favorite band since the year 2000.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I am familiar with them but not that familiar. So I couldn’t quote any lyrics.
Morgan (Host): Amazing. In the meeting notes, I’ll put the link to their YouTube video as well. They have surprisingly good lyrics to kick consistently.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): I’ll put it on Spotify.
Morgan (Host): Oh yeah. It was a fun conversation, and I love all the different processes that you’ve extracted from this story. It might be the first one where I got two ideas to adopt for my process. Thank you for the insight. It was fun.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah, maybe we’ll call this one Client Nightmares or Clients’ Night Difficulties as it does not qualify as a real challenge.
Morgan (Host): With your awesome metaphor of peeing on the table, it’d be like Client Wet Dream or Peeing in the Bed. But I do not think it’s necessary. I think the lessons that you have learned are better than a lot of the lessons that in other episodes people have gotten from the more intense story. So, I wish everyone has fewer crazy clients and learns more, as opposed to having crazier clients and learning less.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): And ultimately, your goal is to have a few crazy clients as possible. That’s the goal. Keep them in the thick part of the bell curve.
Morgan (Host): Although there’s craziness with a money trade-off, I’m willing to have crazy clients if they pay me a lot.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Sometimes, there’s someone who wants to work with you, and you don’t. So, you set an astronomically high number with the hopes that they say no, but it’s a number where you’re okay if they say yes. So if your standard minimum retainer is $1,000 a month, and you say it will be $10,000. And they say okay, you know, as long as it’s enough money where you’re willing to put up with it, you know, there’s nothing, no harm in trying to get them to say no because it’s too expensive. The worst thing that happens is they say yes.
Morgan (Host): If there’s a trade-off where they tell me to put up with nightmares for a million dollars, I can put up with nightmares for a few months.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Sure.
Morgan (Host): Apparently, Oscar Wilde once asked a woman of an aristocrat family to sit with them for a million pounds. And she said, “Okay, and then how about one pound?” And she said, “Who do you think I am, a prostitute?” And he said, “Well, you’ve already agreed for the million pounds, now we’re just negotiating the price.” So sometimes a conversation like that feels more like being a prostitute where I’m willing to put up with bad stuff for more money.
But also, like, at what point do you just become a prostitute and do anything? Also, when do you just become a prostitute and do anything? It’s a question that I have thought to myself a lot, and I try to steer towards avoiding our prostitute instincts.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Depends on how much money, for a million dollars? Maybe!
Morgan (Host): It was fun catching up. I’ll put the musical links in the Notes app. And, hopefully, everyone watching this got some good lessons. Contact us for any questions, comments, or follow-ups and I think everyone should start using the Expectations Agreement as well.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Yeah, this has been a fun conversation.
Morgan (Host): Okay, have a good weekend, to be continued. Thanks for watching.
Collin Slattery (interviewee): Thanks, guys.
This article was based on Episode #15: Collin Slattery’s Story, please watch the complete episode here!