No one gets the toxic title until it becomes a pattern

Taming the toxic client

toxic_gasmanIn my last two articles, I discussed iDiz Inc’s perspective on Building the ideal credit union marketer and Helping the not-so-ideal credit union marketer.

Now it’s time to dish up some dirt!

With some people, it’s almost impossible to develop a productive business relationship. I’m sorry to say we’ve encountered all the red flags below, but thankfully, there are very, very few truly toxic people in credit union land.

Trust issues

We understand — your brand is your baby, and it can be hard at first to trust an agency. Or maybe you’ve been hurt in the past, so it’s hard to let go. These are all pretty normal feelings. But truly toxic clients cross the line into outright paranoia…

  • Unwilling to share basic info — budget, strategy, goals, etc. C’mon, you have to tell the doctor where it hurts — we at least need to know the basics of what we’re trying to do for you.
  • Argues or complains about every invoice, even though it matches the signed estimate exactly.
  • Drags needless complications into everything — complex contracts, compliance constipation, reams of RFPs, endless estimates, insane indemnification, etc.
  • Constantly suspicious and defensive — demands examples and proof for every recommendation, always sure someone is trying to rip them off.
  • Micromanages, or unable to delegate, yet perpetually unavailable.
  • Has rapidly burned through several agencies and vendors.

Ethics, schmethics

  • Asks us to copy someone else’s work or concept; tries to circumvent or violate copyright.
  • Demands free work or work “on spec”. (“Speculative” work is demanding to see completed work for free before making the decision to commit to the project.)
  • “Just one little bitty thing more…” Consistently demands work that’s not part of the project estimate. We love to go above and beyond, but we also love to see our families once in a while.
  • The Confusinator: sows discord by hiding information, lying outright, or telling different stories to us, their boss, and/or their co-workers.
  • See you under the bus — blames everyone else for anything and everything that goes wrong.
  • Creates a toxic work environment — rules minions with an iron fist, treats vendors badly, treats co-workers badly.
  • Just a big ol’ meanie.


  • Trapped  — victim of a toxic work environment.
  • Totally unrealistic expectations vs. resources. Sorry, a new web site is going to cost a little more than $500…
  • Unable to plan ahead and always needs it tomorrow. We’ve been known to work miracles, but we need at least a little time…
  • Unable or not allowed to make any decisions at all.
  • Unable to give constructive feedback — “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’ll know when it’s right. Try again. And again. And again.”
  • Recent financials out of whack, or way out of line with goals, with no explanation — unwilling to lend, stagnant or negative growth, lopsided operations costs, etc.

And don’t worry — we’ve all made some of the mistakes on this list. No one gets the toxic title until it becomes a pattern!

Brian Wringer

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