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Bad Apples

It’s September! The seasons are changing, and I don’t know about you, but fall always makes me think about apple picking. There’s something so refreshing about picking apples directly from the tree in the crisp, cool autumn air instead of just the supermarket aisle. Picking apples also taught me an important lesson for both life and business: let the bad apples fall.

You know how it goes when you’re picking apples. Some are perfectly ripe, and you put them in your basket. But you have to watch out for those bad apples, and let them fall to the ground. They won’t do you any good.

Bad apples come in a variety of forms in business. For example, clients that don’t pay their bills are definitely bad. Check your receivables and make sure you are getting paid, and if you aren’t, then drop the client! Sometimes I tell people that I will continue working with them for the rest of the year, but that we will be ending in our partnership in January. I try not to bring bad apples into the new year. But other times I tell them that our partnership will be ending immediately. This isn’t just for clients, but also for staff as well.

You should also be wary of apples that aren’t necessarily bad, but just aren’t right for you and your business. For example, I recently had a prospective client that I was really excited for. I thought that they would be a great fit for our company, but unfortunately the office was 2.5 hours away. Normally, we work virtually, however, the sensitivity related to this potential client was going to require to be in-person at least for a few weeks. We would have had to drive 5 hours a day or stay in a hotel nearby! I knew that just wasn’t feasible, so I had to let them go.

Sometimes when you let bad apples go, they will ask you to find a replacement. Remember, you have no obligation to do so. If they were a bad apple to you, they will probably be a bad apple for whoever you recommend them to.

Another thing to keep in mind is to have honest conversations about clients about what you need from them and what they need from you. Autumn can be a busy time, so be honest about deadlines, and understanding when people might not be able to make certain events. If you keep open communication about what you need and what you can do, you will have fewer bad apples to leave behind.