AA 118 | High Maintenance Clients


When running a business, it is always a plus to have a long list of customers. But every now and then, you need to deal with high-maintenance clients that cause hidden costs in your accounting and bookkeeping. In this episode, Michelle Weinstein sits down once again with business growth strategies and award-winning sales professional Denise Mandeau. They talk about the importance of doing an in-depth inventory to find clients who do not deliver profit and exhaust your joy and freedom. Denise explains why you should not be scared to raise fees and why it is not recommended to do business with relatives. She also discusses where you should draw the line when doing pro bono work and how fear to talk to maintenance clients stops you in your tracks.

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Getting Rid Of High Maintenance Clients With Denise Mandeau

We have a very special guest. Our special guest is not only my partner in crime, but she is a business growth strategist and has proven success, not only as a business owner and a financial planner. She’s also an award-winning sales professional with over 35 years of experience. She has learned what it takes to produce results that have been working with professionals and sales teams over the last few years to help them generate millions of dollars in new business.

She has personally closed over $1.8 million in new business. She’s also passionate about teaching others how to learn to sell without being salesy. Before we welcome our special guest to the show, if you are feeling underpaid, overworked, and burnt out from this past tax season, then keep reading because no matter what’s happening in your firm, it’s 100% possible for you to work with fewer clients and fewer hours and get paid more money.

I know that all around you, there are firm owners, CPAs, accountants, and bookkeepers working tons of hours with lots of clients and are probably scratching their heads and wondering, “Why am I working 14 to 18-hour days yet have nothing to show for it in my bank account, my savings, or my retirement?” That’s not how we do things here. We show you how to create the firm you’ve always wanted.

We show you how to bring the income and revenue that you deserve and serve only the clients that you choose who you’re happy to pay you what you’re worth so you can have the time to do other things that you’re passionate about. If you’re ready to make these changes, start creating the firm that you’ve always dreamt of, and never look back, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book a call with me or my partner in crime, Denise. Let’s welcome Denise to the show.

Welcome, Denise, to the show.

I’m glad to be here, Michelle, as always.

I’m glad to always have my partner in crime here with me talking about a great, interesting, and unique topic. I’ve got some great feedback on another episode we did. I was like, “We need to meet again and have a conversation.” We are going to talk about the hidden cost of working with higher-maintenance type of clients in your accounting tax or bookkeeping firm but, ultimately, the hidden cost of your fear because fear is what’s holding you back from getting rid of those high-maintenance clients.

You think they bring in all this revenue, but in reality, you probably are losing a lot of money. Thank you, Denise, for being here with me on this episode. It’s always an honor to have you here. Before we start, I’ve always done your intro. I always think it’s great in case no one has ever heard our previous episodes. Tell us who you are, what you do, and why you’re here with me.

I’m happy to share. I’m Denise Mandeau. I have been an entrepreneur since I was twenty years old. I worked in the financial services industry for over 22 years. I love sales, and that’s why I’m here with Michelle. We can help people fall in love with sales, serve people, and make lots of money.

You can serve the right people, make lots of money, and spend more time with your family and loved ones. Let’s talk about some of the hidden costs of not only working with those high-maintenance clients that you have but also the hidden cost of not letting them go, the fear, and all of the hidden costs that are wrapped up in fear of not letting go of clients or charging more because you think clients might leave you. What are some other areas that you see fear or something holding back a firm owner?

It’s interesting because I was having a conversation with somebody. She has been in the industry for over many years, but mostly in corporate. She decided to go out on her own. When she started, she was in a networking community. To start bringing more business in, she gave a massive discount to the people that were in her community, and now she’s regretting doing that but, at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Now, she feels stuck. She can’t raise her prices with them.

AA 118 | High Maintenance Clients

High Maintenance Clients: Giving massive discounts is a common way to bring more business in. But if you will not draw the line, you may feel stuck.


For a lot of the firm owners, that goes hand in hand when you’re working with family or friends or you’re doing these favors at the beginning when you’re starting, and then you realize that you have 20 or 30 favors out there for family, friends, and the kids of the families. You feel bad thinking that now you need to up-level and become a real business instead of a nonprofit.

People do know that you are operating a for-profit business. Unfortunately, you can’t do that for free, but in the beginning, it sounds like this great idea that you’re getting started, and you’re going to give them the hookup or whatever you want to call it, but that’s a hidden cost of working with someone that will become more higher-maintenance than someone you get off Yelp or a referral or using paid advertising to get a client because that is someone you’re not attached to.

My mom always tells me, “Never do business with family or friends,” even though my mom is part of my business now. She’s the only person I can work with. It didn’t work out with my dad and others that I’ve helped. What would you say to those who are thinking that’s a great idea when in reality, there are so many hidden costs and headaches that go along with it? You’re stuck. A year or two later when you want to make a change, what are you going to do?

You’re worried about disappointing people, or they won’t understand. How many times do we hear that over and over again? “They have been loyal. They give me referrals.”

“They have been with me for 30 years.”

“I can’t raise their prices.” Why not? You’ve been loyal to them.

Something we teach in our eight-week sales mastery training is you have to think about what pro bono work you’re going to do, if at all, and draw a line in the sand. If I’m going to work with five of my neighbors, I’m going to prepare their taxes, and you’re going to do the bare bones for them and some compliance work, don’t even give them a good deal.

Do it complimentary and say, “This is my volunteerism. This is my pro bono section. That’s it. No more.” Otherwise, you’re going to have so many other hidden costs, not only in time wasted and thinking about it because thinking about it creates a lot of wasted space. It’s not good for anybody, especially yourself, but it’s also not good for those people that you deeply care about, which are your loved ones, your neighbors, your family, your friends, and the clients that you’ve had for 20 or 30 years.

If that’s the free work you want to do, and that’s your volunteer bucket, then make that be it, but otherwise, don’t work with those people anymore and make that decision in your firm. Each of you needs to come and think, “Who do I want to work with? Who do I not want to work with?” Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a lot of high-maintenance clients that eat up a lot of costs that you don’t even realize. It happens like that. What are some ways that you think a firm owner could reduce the amount of hidden costs that they have in their firm that we’re not even thinking about?

We have talked about this before. I always think of Mark. Take an audit and look at the high-maintenance clients that you have. If you did an audit of how many emails, text messages, and how much time you’re spending, and then you look at what you’re getting paid per hour, it’s a wake-up call to see if it’s even profitable for you. If it’s not, then you have to make a decision to raise your prices and be willing to let go of that business. If it’s not profitable, then why would you want to keep it? It’s not just taking up your time and resources, but it’s also taking a brain space and your joy. It’s always good to take inventory at least once a year to see who you want to keep in your boat with you because if you have too many people in your boat, the boat is going to sink.

If a client is not profitable, do not keep them. They are just taking up your time, resources, and brain space. Click To Tweet

It’s important too to think about your boat. How many people do you want in your boat that are going to be part of your hidden cost? Doing an audit or an inventory and all those elements that Denise said are important. I’m going to repeat it because she had a few that a lot of us don’t even acknowledge. We bypass it and think that it’s normal. Brain space is number one. Number two is your joy. Is your joy meter at the bottom or in the negative? Is it high when you’re working with them?

It’s emails that they’re sending you, text messages, voicemails, and the amount of time you’re spending on that client. Break down how much is that time worth for each of them. If you think about those clients an hour a day, you better put a value on that hour per day. If it’s sucking your joy out, then you better double your hourly rate for that because it’s costing you. If you’re looking at an email and replying to it, there are probably 10, 15, or 30 minutes per email.

It’s the overall amount of time you’re spending with that client, be it doing the work, looking at the file, going, “They didn’t even upload that W-2 or whatever documents are missing,” and then chasing the client. Even worse, for those of you not collecting payments up front, that could be another problem area, but these are all hidden costs of working with a high-maintenance type of clients AKA PITA clients or Pain In The Ass and not letting them go, not cutting them loose, or not saying, “I am not going to work with family, friends, neighbors, second, third, and fourth generations, and clients that have been with you for the last 20 to 30 years and not make any changes.”

You’re going to draw the line in the sand. It’s important to say, “I’m going to devote five hours per month to my pro bono work.” You’re going to tell them all, “I’m not charging anymore. This is part of my volunteer department,” but how many people do you want on that boat? This is your volunteer boat. Think about it. Is it a little raft? Is it an inflatable with a little motor on the back? Is it a wooden one that you have two oars on the side? How many life jackets are you going to have in that boat for each person? You’re not going to have any extra. You’re going to have enough for each person.

This will make a huge difference. We instill this in our eight-week sales mastery program in our clients. We got an email from Tamika. She said, “You said it best.” That was the subject line, “I got a text from a corporate client who left due to her price increases.” She had a fear of letting clients go before. She had a fear of not charging enough. She went through our program, made the changes, increased her fees, and then had a handful of people leave. Most of them stayed.

Get this. They came back in a panic wanting to return and have her do the work for them. They left because they thought they were going to get a good deal somewhere else. She said, “I thought I should send this to you with a quick little note.” I’m like, “Please do share all this with me all the time because it always happens.” Anyone who leaves you due to price because you have the fear of not charging more because you think they’re going to leave you, which 99% of the time, most of them will stay, then you’re going to have these few.

Most of the time, we hear from all of our clients, “The clients that leave are the ones we wanted to anyway. They were the clients that drove us the most nuts. They were the clients that took up the most brain space. They were the clients that sucked all the joy and energy out of us. They were the clients that sent the most amount of emails and text messages. They were the clients that you spent the most amount of time on. What we found is that you would be surprised how many of those clients come back in the future.” Tamika gets to charge more. We will see what she responds to my email with, but I’m very curious.

There’s an acronym for FEAR that I’ve always heard. It’s False Evidence Appearing Real. We believe that they’re going to leave, but it’s false. It’s something that hasn’t happened yet, but we put all this weight to it. I heard a new definition of that acronym. That’s Forget Everything And Run. Forget what you know about this stuff and run toward what you want and away from the old way of thinking that keeps you stuck like Molly.

AA 118 | High Maintenance Clients

High Maintenance Clients: FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s when you believe that high-maintenance accounting clients will leave, but it is false.


Another client of ours is Molly.

She was so scared to raise her fees. She was stressed out beside herself. In one of her largest clients, she thought, “I’m too afraid to raise my prices. Maybe I’ll raise them a little bit. I don’t want them to leave.” We had a straight conversation. She tripled her fees. We helped her with the language of how to do that. You don’t just do that. You have to do it the right way and communicate properly. The clients go, “That makes sense.” Long story short, not only did the client accept her new triple monthly fees, but they thanked her and said, “That was a well-written letter. Thank you. You deserve it. I’m happy to pay you and then some.”

It’s so fun because Molly was completely overwhelmed before. She was disorganized. She was scattered in her firm. Talk about doing all of the things of wasting brain space, sending emails, and spending too much time. She wasn’t even billing clients, and now she’s getting paid before she delivers the work, which is a big change in her practice, but now she also feels less stressed about being disorganized in her practice.

Not only was the most important change she made was increasing her prices and sending out a price increase letter to her existing clients. She was able to not only take the leap of faith and work with us, but she took the leap of faith to make a big change in her firm. She says she wished she would have done this years ago. That’s also a massive hidden cost in your firm when you put things off for so long because you as the firm owner aren’t making the change.

In eight weeks, she sent over her case study testimonial to me. This is what it says. She doubled or tripled some of her fees as Denise said in the price increase letter, but overall, her revenue is double where it was at this time. She has done a little over $20,000 of revenue in an eight-week period at the same time. There was still a lot of tax season to go when she was generating a bulk of her revenue. However, on her monthly bookkeeping revenue, not only did she double it, but it will carry her through the rest of the year. She’s going to hit her revenue goals. All of her clients stayed with her. She didn’t lose any.

When I saw that from Molly, I thought about the hidden cost. It was the fear that she didn’t do anything for four years. If she did an extra $20,000 in an eight-week period. There are 52 weeks in a year. I can’t even do that math, but $20,000 in 8 weeks times the difference times 52 weeks times 4 years, how much money is that for Molly that was left on the table because she had a fear of making a change in her firm? We have a fear of change in general. It is hard. It’s not easy.

I’m so happy she made these changes now, but for those of you who are sitting on the fence of the fear of making changes, think about those hidden costs in your firm. Where are you missing the boat? That’s what I wanted to say about that. What else do you have on the hidden costs? I love your acronyms. You always have something genius to say every time we talk. Denise is the queen of something golden. I love her golden nuggets because it’s the people in your boat. How many people in your boat do you want to have as the high-maintenance department group?

I’m high-maintenance. I’m also high-value, high-performing, and high-everything, but we’re talking about the high-maintenance clients that also are not bringing you the revenue, which are having the hidden cost that you are incurring in your firm by working with them. You’ve got your False Evidence Appearing Real. That’s for those who think in the future when it’s not even real and replace the story and meaning with something that hasn’t happened. The meaning that you’ve created on it is probably something from your past. How can you switch it to, “Forget everything and run.”

To that end, the other fear that comes up is, “I don’t know how to talk to them,” the fear of rejection, and the fear of people getting mad at them. It’s not true. There are going to be those who are whiny and complaining. Usually, those are the ones you don’t want anyway. Nobody wants to feel rejected. Our job is not to have people like us. It’s nice if they do, but our job is to serve them and to do what’s best. You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others. You have to charge your value.

AA 118 | High Maintenance Clients

High Maintenance Clients: An accountant has to serve the people and do what is best. But they have to put an oxygen mask on themselves before they can help others. They have to charge their value.


Another area where there’s a hidden cost is people who are still stuck or still thinking that they need to charge hourly instead of charging by results. If you’ve been an accounting professional for years, why should you be penalized if you can do something more efficiently or in less time? Why should you get paid less for that? It’s a hidden cost.

There are so many hidden costs. We could probably sit here, and then you will get irritated with us. I don’t want to go too much further, but the takeaway is doing an inventory or an audit on your high-maintenance clients, the clients that take up the most time, the clients that you’re terrified to lose because you think it’s bringing you all your revenue, and the clients that you’re like, “I can’t do it. I can’t let them go. They have been my neighbors for years.” How many people do you want in your pro bono boat? Tell them, “I’ve got a better deal. Don’t even pay me. I’m going to do it complimentary.” Do it from the heart, do it complimentary, and do it from a place of volunteering and giving back versus from a place of, “I’ve been giving you a good deal for so long,” and now you’re irritated.

We have to remove the irritation, the aggravation, and the anger inside because that’s what you started. Remove that completely because that will free up your brain space. That will bring you more joy. That will bring you fewer emails, fewer texts, and less time spent even sending a $100 bill to someone when you should do it complimentary. That’s the biggest takeaway that I hear from Denise. Those of you reading should spend the next 10 to 20 minutes doing this inventory and thinking about it so you can go into the back half of this year doing something different, cleaning up, and creating more space to have more abundance, joy, and freedom in your life.

It is a different way of thinking. In this case only, we want you to get out of your emotions and think logically.

It’s a rare thing for us to say that.

You have to look at the dollars and cents of things and the numbers. The numbers will tell the truth in this case.

When dealing with high-maintenance accounting clients, get out of your emotions and think logically. Only look at the dollars and cents as they will tell the truth in this case. Click To Tweet

If you think you have a lot of hidden costs, or you don’t even know where to look for them, and if you’re not happy with where your firm is at and you don’t think it’s possible to work with fewer clients and fewer hours and get paid more money, then I have some news for you. All around you, there are firm owners, CPAs, and bookkeepers who have made these changes. That’s what we do here.

If you want us to show you how to create the firm you’ve always wanted, reduce your high-maintenance clients in a graceful, thankful, and generous manner, bring in the revenue that you deserve, only serve the clients you choose, only have a certain amount of people on your boat who are happy to pay you exactly what you want to charge and what you’re worth, do the other things that you’re passionate about, and spend the back half of this year traveling with your family, if you’re ready to make some of those changes, then you can go to TheAbundantCall.com and book a call with me or Denise.

We will walk you step by step through how you can create the firm you’ve always dreamt of when you started this business, or if you’re in a job, the firm you’ve always dreamt of, but you’ve never taken the leap of faith because you have a fear of not having a paycheck every two weeks. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book a call with me or Denise. We look forward to speaking to you. Thank you all for reading. Thank you, Denise, for being here.

It’s my pleasure as always.


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About Denise Mandeau

AA 118 | High Maintenance ClientsDenise Mandeau, Business Growth Strategist and has proven success as a Business Owner, Financial Planner and award-winning Sales professional for over 35 years. She has learned what it takes to produce results and has been working with professionals and sales teams over the last few years helping them to generate millions of dollars in new business. She has personally closed over $1.8 million in new business in the last 12 months. Denise is passionate about teaching others to learn how to sell without being salesy!



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