Jack’s Life: On Firing My Most Profitable Client

I’m a fan of cash. A big fan. And I have a lot of clients who prefer handing me a discrete bag full of it, rather than dealing with the headaches of banks and cheques.

One client in particular has been my most profitable, cash-wielding client over the past year and a half. Every month or so my office gets a call from him, asking me to source an item for his collection. The man has one of the biggest and finest collections of diamond rings I’ve ever seen.

The jobs are normally straight forward: purchases from private owners and jewellers, flights to Milan, Paris, Cape Town, escorts by armed guards. Compared to many of my other procurements, it’s easy money. Diamond Ring Man is my favorite, most profitable client.

Or he was, until last week.

When I started Neoteric Acquisitions, it was to be my own boss. To do my own thing. To not be constrained like I had been in previous jobs where my soul was sucked dry by doing work I didn’t care about.

It’s why I only take on the clients and jobs I want, instead of just anyone who will throw enough money at me. I like money, but I can’t be bought.

Last week, Diamond Ring Man asked me to acquire an 18th-century square-cut ring. The ring had belonged to various royalty, old and new, in the past couple of hundred years, and now resided in Berlin. The job was meant to be as simple as usual – fly to Berlin, negotiate with the owner, fly to Chicago to deliver the ring to the buyer.

But when I arrived in Berlin, I found my client had not been completely honest with me. I took a taxi to the address I’d been given, and found myself standing outside a run down old house, nothing like the stately mansion I’d imagined.

I knocked on the door, and was greeted by an old lady with a stooped back, who smiled warmly at me and invited me inside.

“I’ve been expecting you,” she said.

She sat me down in her sitting room with a cup of tea and a plate of sugar biscuits. Then she went to the mantle and took down a box. She sat down next to me and opened it.

“This was my grandmother’s, then my mother’s, then mine,” she said, as she took out the ring.

I could immediately see that the ring was larger than my client had told me it was. I might not be a gemologist, or a diamond collector, but I’d acquired enough in my time to know what I was looking at.

“The man who called sent around a jeweller to check it for me,” she continued. “He told me it was almost worthless because of the chip missing. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but he said he’d give me a good deal on it.”

She handed me the ring, and as she did I saw a numbered tattoo peeking out of her sleeve. I examined the ring—there was no chip. It was flawless.

I stood and handed the ring back to her.

“There’s been a mistake,” I said. I bent over and whispered a number in her ear. “Don’t accept anything less than that for this ring, ever.”

I finished my tea, and as I walked outside I called my office. Diamond Ring Guy? No longer my client.

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