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Leaving our company's biggest and stable client (Looking for advice)

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New Contributor
Oct 21, 2019
Rio de Janeiro
Hello everyone, I'm an on-and-off lurker here and decided that I'd try asking you guys for some advice.

TLDR: My company's biggest client hasn't been good to work with and their needs don't align with our long-term vision. We have the runway to go for a while even without them and look for better projects more aligned with our purpose. But, the money is good and safe. What should I do?

I have a game development company, and we create games and apps for clients and develop our own products. In the past year we were able to grow to about USD200k gross revenue. This includes funding for one game project that we started - which is not exactly revenue since it didn't come from sales, but it's money in the bank - and client contracts.

Our biggest client is an American company, and being paid in USD is very good for us (based in South America). But we're at a point where they need a bigger team and more commitment from us, and as much as we've been trying hard to keep up and expanded the team to fit their needs, our cultures and values clash. In the past months we straightened our relationship and trust, but at the same time the same relationship problems keep happening, even with them being open for feedback and me giving some. We were able to change processes and make things better in lots of ways, but some problems look like they won't be solved because they come from their own culture and internal processes (and of course, it's clash with ours).

Basically I want to help their business more, but I'm unable to. I know I have knowledge to help them out with some other things, but they make their own decisions internally with priorities that are hard for me to understand, since I'm looking from outside. Since we develop one of their biggest products, it's hard for our team to create something with passion if we don't understand and/or agree with the decisions being made.

We are developing an app on a technological intersection and with many issues to be solved and things to be discovered, so we're all learning many things as we go along, from both sides. But the lack of alignment in terms of goals / priorities / culture creates frustration in both sides, I feel. They don't have experience creating tech products and get frustrated with the pipelines and technical problems. On the other hand, we have to deal with constantly changing priorities, so we feel like we're not working smart, and are constantly throwing stuff away as we stop / abandon features.

We have been working together for one year now, and it is still on a project-basis, never with a monthly budget or longer-term commitment. That also creates stress and is a burden, since we have to scope all our work beforehand and then manage expectations all along, while keeping a deadline. Also, I believe this is a big liability for them -- not having the dev team of a product on a long-term contract.

Well, that's the gist of it. On top of that, the biggest thing that makes me want to let this opportunity go is that the product doesn't align with our mission in the long term.
The client has been a good way to get money, we enjoyed a lot working with them, and the product was fun to make. But now, as the product is maturing, they have very different needs - they need longer-term commitment and lots of LiveOps, and that doesn't really align with what we want long-term.

Over the course of 2020 we were able to save enough money to have runway for this whole year, and we're investing on our own products. With that in mind, I seriously considered letting the client go. I think I could be spending my time looking for clients more aligned with our long-term mission, and using the runway to invest in our own products right away, takes bigger steps towards a fastlane situation.

Then the plot-twist came in mid-December as they asked me to scope a very big project. That contract would mean about another 1 year+ financial security for us, plus the opportunity to hire more people and invest in other projects. So I saw that as an opportunity to grow and invest in one bigger game project with the funds. I made them a proposal for a year-long contract, which I believe would be great for both of our companies, since they would feel safer since we are committed to their product, and we don't have to worry about creating project proposals every month and a half.

But January came, and they haven't exactly accepted the agreement. They asked for us to work for one month with the monthly budget I proposed, so they were fine with it, but want to wait a bit longer to decide and write a formal long-term agreement afterwards. We have been working for them just like normal, but that created an uncomfortable situation -- I now don't want to hire more people to fill the roles I proposed, since I don't know if I can keep them (and it's not really easy to get freelancers to fill in the wholes).

I imagine some of you have been through this kind of situation before, where you had to make this choice: keeping a client that is great for financial security but takes lots of energy and doesn't align with your values, versus removing the weight on your shoulders but taking more risks to focus on your mission.

I appreciate any thoughts, comments, help, etc. Thanks!

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