Can Your Clients Get Through This 5-part Grid?

your impact and life at work depend on it!

Want to do great work? With customers you like? And have more impact?

Apply These 5 Criteria

What if…

…you could work with the kind of people and do the kind of work where you didn’t “work” another day? Where work becomes a joy, a sport and not a grind. Sound pollyannaish? Maybe. But read on.

Ten years ago, we were off-site planning for the future of our business, discussing the kind of work that brings us meaning and fulfillment, and the characteristics of the client relationships for which we have been genuinely grateful.

As we considered the kinds of clients we wanted to work with in the future, Jackie said, “I want to work with clients where we have FIT, FUN, FRUIT, FREEDOM, and FAITH.”

What we now call the F5 client formula.


Fit. Fun. Fruit. Freedom. Faith.

Whether you are a freelancer, a professional services provider, or an employee with internal and external customers (a customer/client is anyone who receives the output of your work), we think the F5 criteria are critical for doing great work and loving what you do.

  1. FIT

As a service provider, you want to know that your clients’ needs are in your wheelhouse. That means finding the FIT between your expertise, style and approach and the client’s desired outcomes.

There’s nothing worse than trying to play in a sandbox that you aren’t equipped for or aren’t passionate about. And doing so because it’s profitable is a form of prostitution. Working with a client who wants you and will pay you, but where there is no fit, no chemistry, creates incongruence.

Incongruence is a grind, it ties you up in knots, leads to procrastination and creates stress, because that is what posing does.

Fit is about finding and establishing chemistry that is build around mutual respect.

And fit inspires you to work hard, to engage with grit, grace and gravitas. Fit paves the way for greater freedom to share your skills, strengths and talents to create an ROI for your client.

Playing outside your sandbox for the sake of a buck is a form of


2. FUN

FUN usually follows fit. When there is chemistry between you and your client, between their objectives and your portfolio of gifts, talents, and services, everyone is more relaxed and has more fun. When you are having fun, you’re more creative, open minded, curious, energized and lighthearted.

You’re less likely to judge yourself and your client. You become less distracted by “I’m not enough” or other forms of self-doubt that cause you to engage in negative assumptions about the client’s assessment of your value.

When you’re having fun, you are completely present, in the moment. You are far more focused on your client’s aspirations. When you’re completely in the moment you are free to do your best work.

And your best work is contagious. Your client will pick up on this and reinforce it. Together you’ll create a virtuous upward spiral of mutual collaboration and meaningful connection… You’ll create great Fruit!

“I had too much fun”

is no one’s regret…ever!

  1. FRUIT

Fit and fun create FRUIT. Fruit is about moving the needle for your client. Fruit is achieving your client’s desires, delivering on your promises, creating “ah-ha” moments, offering new approaches, and affecting positive change.

Fruit is a measure of impact.

Fruit is a measure of impact. Either the tree produces ripe, rich fruit, or it doesn’t. Enrich a client’s life, equip them to do better, and you know you’ve made a difference. You’ve earned their respect and confidence, which feels great and creates more opportunity.

Producing fruit for your clients/customers advances and improves your brand and offers you greater freedom.


Fit, fun, and fruit create FREEDOM—the freedom to explore, experiment, and be more creative in your work. When you have the freedom to think out loud, speak your truth, and come up with new ways to help your client move from point A to point B, you grow and they grow. You advance and improve your trade and your confidence grows. 

Freedom is what keeps your work fresh. Freedom separates the engaged from the disengaged, the alive from the dead people working. When you truly gain a sense of freedom, freedom reinforces fit, allows for more fun and ripens the fruit.

  1. FAITH

We used to pray, “God, I’m going to be with client ____. (as if God didn’t know) and I ask you to be with me (as if he isn’t already) and bless the work, the project, the speech I’m giving (in other words, please get on my agenda).”  Our prayers were grounded in lousy theology.

We’ve come a long way, today we completely believe God is already present in every life, whether we know it or not, and God is always moving to bring more life to people and organizations.

Our prayer is different now: “Father, you are already working in the life of client ____. Thank you for welcoming us into what you are already doing, for inviting us to play a part. Open our eyes and show us how to participate with you, to further your agenda.”

We believe our ability to engage in work that has FIT, FUN, FRUIT, and FREEDOM is about co-authoring that work with God.

God is always moving in lives and He loves a partner in the work he is doing. When you show up with your gifts and talents and participate, you are saying “yes” to a bigger “yes.  Why not invite HIM to empower the work… and cause fit, fun, fruit and freedom to flourish for you and your clients.

When was the last time you felt truly free at work?

When was the last time you felt alive?

The fact is, life is too short, and we work too much of it to work outside these criteria.

We get it. There is no perfect job and no perfect client. But we get to decide how much and how often we compromise F5. Play outside the boundaries of F5 long enough, and several things will happen:

  • You will lose confidence in yourself,
  • Joy will diminish, and resentment will rise,
  • You will disengage and likely become a DEAD PERSON WORKING.

On the other hand, adopting these criteria has the potential to:

  • Broaden your impact,
  • Deepen your sense of significance and fulfillment,
  • Extend your footprint with existing clients,
  • Grow your client base, and
  • Enrich your career.

We know…

…what it’s like to force a fit as executive coaches, speakers and business consultants. It’s painful and dehumanizing. It sucks… the life energy and enthusiasm out of you. It’s hard to say “no,” but in the long run, it’s toxic to force a fit.

Doing so takes courage. Here is a personal example. COVID strikes, the meeting’s business goes “south,” and our in-person speaking engagements fall through the floor. While attempting to rebound, we are given an opportunity —an engagement we could probably do “okay” at but it lacked fit, fun and freedom. Honestly, the temptation to accept, was formidable, but we’ve been there before, compromised, and paid a hefty price.

What’s the problem with this scenario? We are all for navigating the waters of uncertainty, risk, and exposure to mature and grow in our expertise about leadership, change, and innovation. But if that means posing and pretending by taking on lucrative projects–projects we are only “kinda” equipped for and not that interested in, it’s not worth the emotional drain. And, we have NOT built a brand on begin just “okay.”

It’s not easy, it takes ongoing courage to say “no” to projects that don’t meet F5. 

But, ask yourself, “What’s more painful, exercising the courage to say “no,” or engaging in a project with a client where there is no fit, you’re not having fun, you’re producing average fruit/results, and you feel like a prostitute?”  

So if you want to improve the world without compromising who you are, without trading fulfillment and joy for a buck, then it’s time to be intentional about the type of clients you want to work with. F5 works for us, let it inspire you to generate your own criteria.

It takes courage to say “no” to work that doesn’t create

fit, fun, fruit, freedom and faith.

This takes us back to FAITH and the belief that God created us to live life abundantly. That is, none of us are wired to grind gears by doing work that compromises some part of fit, fun, fruit, freedom, and faith. So, we look ahead with faith, believing God will provide F5 work.

But we also know that if fear drives a book of business filled with “compromises,” God has no place to put the F5 work. Fulfillment is not achieved by compromising your brand.

F5 is not impossible.

It’s not relegated to those who have already made it and can “cherry pick” their clients. We know a number of entrepreneurs who compromised early on in their careers. Then, compromising became a habit, a way of doing business. Today, they have lots of money but hate their jobs and lost their souls. Unfortunately, they continue to do work and take on clients who aren’t fulfilling because they are imprisoned to a lifestyle.

F5 is a choice, a choice to be brave. To step through fear, believing that the best things in life are on the other side of fear.

The question is:

“Do you have the guts to put your customers and clients through the grid?”