Keep Your Clients Through Tough Times

When your business falters, hold tight to your client base.
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When a business is trying to stave off potential lawsuits because it owes suppliers and the IRS lots of money, your clients will notice.

After I took over as president of said company, convincing clients to stay loyal was no easy task.

Angry former employees were circulating rumors of bankruptcy amongst my clients, many of whom had already announced their plans to sever ties with the company.

When the chips are stacked against you, you can still stop a mass client exodus by acting quickly on a few key things:

Make It Personal

I told my employees, who had poured their hearts into their clients' projects, to call their clients and reassure them that everything was under control.

Employees who are more closely associated with their own clients will present a more compelling case than the head of the company can.

The more personalized the message the better.

Keep the Big Guys Close

While I requested meetings with all my clients, I focused on retaining our three biggest clients --

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, Corestates Bank (now

Wachovia Corporation

(WB) - Get Report

) and Rosenbluth International (now part of

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

).

The money the big three brought to our company was actually secondary: If they stayed, that would send a message to our other clients that we were alive and well, erasing some of their doubts.

Retain Your Best

One of the first things doubting clients ask is whether the company's best employees are staying.

So, even though I had to lay off 40% of my work force, I made sure to retain our best people and make this fact well-known.

When clients see that top employees are staying, they're assured of continuing quality of service and company stability.

Denial Is an Ugly Thing

I once worked for a company that ran into similar trouble. When its clients asked pointed questions about what they heard, the president denied there was a problem.

I met with one of these clients, who said he didn't buy the president's answer and didn't trust him.

Trust and honesty, especially in a bad situation, are your most valuable currency.

Remember, most seasoned businesspeople have gone through similar situations and will notice when you're not being straightforward.

Marc Kramer, a serial entrepreneur, is the author of five books and is an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton's Global Consulting Practicum, where he serves as Country Manager for Chile.