How to Break Up in Business

In business, as in love, not every relationship works. When you find yourself in this awkward situation with a service-provider or client there is a right and a wrong way to handle the “break up.” Here are a few suggestions for keeping the break up civil and professional.

1. Keep it real.

Be honest with your client. Clearly state, in writing, exactly why you no longer think you should be working together in the most tactful and direct way possible. Don’t do the business equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me,” instead tell your client the truth—whether the fault is yours or theirs. Honesty garners respect and hopefully results in fewer burned bridges.

2. It’s not personal, it’s business.

As tempting as it may be when working with an especially difficult client, avoid making the break up personal and using words like “idiot” in your break-up email. Always stay professional. Be sure to offer a reasonable solution for the return of any assets or documents and be ready to discuss final payment.

3. Don’t hang on too long.

Recognize that not all customers are a good fit for every business at every time. If a business relationship isn’t going to work, there is no point in delaying the inevitable, especially if you’re looking for something to salvage from the relationship, be it a future business deal or just a good review.

4. Continuity of service.

As much as possible, try to assist your client to resolve the pending issue of your divorce. Provide them with a solution for how to continue the project without your assistance, or a few alternative service providers. In the end, it will not hurt you if your competition is bogged down by a new, challenging client.

While we don’t believe every difficult client or situation should cause a business to run in the opposite direction, there’s no shame in realizing that not every relationship is a good or productive one. When your business finds itself in this situation, remember there is a proper way to break up.

Tune in later this week for a more practical approach of how to handle difficult clients using the “SBI Framework.”

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