Is Love Enough?

Love is grand. Love stinks. Love is the drug. Today, we’re talking about love. So settle down in your favorite chair, light a scented candle, and let’s talk!

Your spouse loves you. (We hope!) Your kids love you. (At least, until they hit the sullen teen years.) Your dog loves you. (Finally, we have a winner!) And maybe your clients love you. But is that enough for everlasting happiness?

On Tuesday, I had a terrific consulting call with a member who’s like many of you. She has a successful 1040-based practice, with an average fee of around $700. But cranking out hundreds of 1040s year after year has become a grind.

Our member uses Angie’s List for much of her marketing. She gets about 80 new clients a year, which means she spends a lot of time onboarding them. (I hate that term “onboarding,” but everyone else seems to think it’s a real word these days, so I’ll go with it. Don’t get me started on “impactful.”)

But the Angie’s List clients aren’t especially loyal, so she also loses about 50 per year. That sort of churn means more time on the marketing hamster wheel just to stay even. And that’s a big part of why she wants to renovate her practice to focus more on planning clients and high-fee business owners paying on monthly maintenance plans.

Earlier this summer, she walked through her entire client list to identify the A’s, the B’s, the C’s, and the 50 or so that she’s going to fire. What do the A’s have in common? It’s not anything about their income, or demographics, or anything else you would expect. The common factor is that they all love her. Absolutely love her.

Here’s the problem. Just because they’re good clients doesn’t mean they’re “good clients.” Just because they love her doesn’t mean they’re profitable.

This is important. Some clients love you. Some clients are profitable. But “clients who love you” and “clients who are profitable” are actually two different groups. Sure, if you drew them as a Venn diagram, there would be some overlap. (Hopefully it would be a lot of overlap.) But there’s no guarantee that just because someone loves you, that they’re good for you. And too many of us are locked in abusive business relationships.

Sometimes this disconnect between love and money leads to hard choices. (Breakups are rarely easy and never fun, especially when you’ve married for money.) But you really do have to ask yourself why you’re operating your business. Are you doing it for love? Or are you doing it for money? There’s nothing wrong with running your business for love. That’s your choice to make! But if you try to pay for groceries with love, the register operator is going to give you a funny look.