Title: Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers
Author: Garrett Sutton
ISBN: 978-1-944194-03-1
Publisher: SuccessDNA, Inc.
Pages: 210
Genre: Business

Reviewed by: John Murray

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Not all clients and customers are created equal.  For many new entrepreneurs, self-employed freelancers and small business owners, the temptation is to accept any and all clients that come a-knocking.  However, as Garrett Sutton patiently points out in his book “Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers,” some clients/customers will only sap your resources, time, and money. Sutton posits that the old adage of “the customer is always right” is mostly wrong.  What the customer assumes is right for him/her can be a huge drain on your business.

To that end, the author first lays out categories of toxic clients.  These sections function as a sort of guide to recognizing, avoiding, or coping with troublesome clients.  Sutton lays out real world examples and scenarios to coach readers into catching these toxic clients before too much damage is done.  He also helpfully presents some insight into these clients’ motivations, which helps shine a light on how to address, or at best to totally avoid them.  Most importantly, Sutton provides instructions, tips, and general rules for getting rid of these clients once identified.

Sutton crafted an incredible guidebook here. The information is helpfully laid out in clear sections with examples that paint toxic clients with a real world brush, making them easier to identify.  The writing and tone is fantastic.  His voice is friendly and easy-going with the cadence of a patient teacher.  He tempers that personality with authority and backs it up with examples.  It is clear Sutton, and those he has interviewed, have personally dealt with these issues.  Learning from their mistakes is easily done, thanks to Sutton’s patient and amiable writing.

Interestingly, the advice and suggestions provided can be applied to any client—as well as anyone you encounter. He stresses the importance of active listening and empathy, skills that not only defuse toxic clients, but can improve your day-to-day interactions. While there are some targeted legal and psychological tips, the majority is just solid interpersonal communication skills that any business owner can benefit from. The intended audiences are entrepreneurs and business owners, but there is an abundance of valuable life lessons gleaned over a career spent working with, and recovering from difficult clients. This easy-to-read book is highly recommended for anyone looking how to deal with irksome people in a professional, caring and respectful manner.