“The Crossroads of Return on Investment and ‘Return on Life:'" Column

When was the last time you took a break and took an honest look at your business and your clients? If you can’t remember, it may be time to do that now. Even if you’re very busy — especially if you’re busy — it will behoove you to, for a moment, work on your business, rather than working in your business. And perhaps in no other way would it be more important to take inventory of the clients you work with.

Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, which recently hosted its Travel Week in Las Vegas, shared a chart during the opening ceremony. On the Y (vertical) axis, he measured a client’s return on investment; on the X (horizontal) axis, he measured “return on life.” Obviously, the more a client spends, the higher they would fall on the Y axis; but as for the X axis, Upchurch measured it by a client’s “life-sucking capabilities.” Picture it: On the lower left quadrant are low-spending, high-life-sucking clients. You don’t want any of those. Those on the lower right are kind and grateful and while you can carry some of these clients, it’s best to not maintain too many because they carry a lost opportunity cost. On the top right is the best client: High-yield and life-enriching. You want as many of those as possible.

Matt Turner
Matt Turner poses here on a boat in New York Harbor for an event hosted by Tauck. (Matt Turner)

The challenge, however, comes with the top left quadrant: They are high-yield, but as Upchurch said, they are also “life energy-sucking Draculas.” To follow the same experiment as Upchurch: Close your eyes. Does any client (or clients) come immediately to mind? If yes, you might want to consider firing them.

“This is where the advantage of being in the advisory business and profession is great because you do have the power to choose whom to serve or not,” said Upchurch.

Sure, it can be tricky — if not tough — to fire a client who brings in a lot of money for your business but you have to remember that just because you’re firing a client, it doesn’t mean that “space,” per se, will just remain empty; it doesn’t even mean that you will have to replace them with someone on that lower-right portion of the chart: Kind but low-spending. Instead, utilize your best asset: Your top clients. Go to the ones who want you to do well and support your business and let them know you have the availability to take on new clients. Very likely those referrals will be of a similar mindset and manner as your top clients. It’s a win-win.

“There’s an exponential benefit [to this] because you end up servicing the people that you love and that [make your business] better, and that begets a virtuous cycle,” said Upchurch.

But to make any of this happen, you need to take a moment and step back. If you’re constantly working within your business, dealing with those “life-sucking” clients just because it’s business, you’re missing out on the opportunity to increase both your return on investment and “return on life.”

As Upchurch said, “Working on your business does not just happen. You have to set aside a certain amount of time in a disciplined framework to work on it.”

So, there you have it. Permission to take a break and spend a little time reconsidering how you operate and how you can best utilize your time and energy. And good luck with those “Draculas.”

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