The end of a business relationship can be as important as the beginning

At the start of a relationship, you try to get to know the company you are dealing with and at the same time prove your worth. This is of course a very important moment in a business relationship as it lays the foundation and expectations for the future. However, I will tell you that the end of a business relationship can be just as important.

Often times companies end a relationship with you and often there is no fault on your part. For example, it sometimes happens that a company brings in-house work that it has already had a supplier do. Sometimes businesses go in a different direction. And unfortunately, sometimes businesses close. Read on as we explore why ending a business relationship is so important.

I recently worked for a marketing company, where the client needed to convert their website from a very technical CMS to WordPress. The reason was simple, they wanted to do a lot of the work themselves and their old CMS was a bit too complicated for non-technical staff to add blog posts. We converted this site and they had no problem. They were very happy with our service and then one day informed me that they would not continue with us as they were moving to a proprietary CMS platform and a new marketing company would do all the web work for them.

Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that it would cost 10 times as much and they wouldn’t own the end product. One of my pet peeves with proprietary CMS website platforms is that I want to own my website. It’s that simple. Some people don’t care, but I’m not one of those people. If this is my website I want to own all code, design and content.

But the company was very nice to me, paid me everything it owed me and always on time. So I helped them throughout the transition, even keeping the site live beyond our contract, as the company responsible for the new website was late (not a surprise ;-)). I will then pack all the files and send them to the company, like they own their website when working with my company, RooSites. This of course won’t be the case when they end their next relationship, as they won’t own their website. Maybe if they had read the article below, they would not have made this mistake, which they will pay dearly for years and end up being dissatisfied.

Now, I have met some website design and management companies who at the end of a relationship get very rude and won’t help anyone who ends a business relationship. This is of course very short-sighted, because the company and none of the employees will ever come back to you. Always take the high road if possible!

If you are a professional at the end of the relationship, you have a chance of getting back into business one day. I’ve also seen companies leave and come back as they find the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, in fact the grass burns very quickly!

Plus, I’ve had people I’ve worked with on a website who left for new jobs and then hired us for their new business. This happens quite often because most of the time people are delighted with our service which is not for bragging but unmatched in our industry. (Okay, maybe a little bragging 🙂 )

Are there any exceptions?

In short, yes! Sometimes business ends in such a way that it is almost impossible to remain professional and friendly.

Here are some examples:

  • I had a company that I did business with for a few years and had a great relationship. They made me make some changes to their site on Christmas Eve. Their VP of Marketing thanked me and told me that I had done a wonderful job, and she was delighted that we responded to all of their inquiries on the same day. Well the next day I woke up and checked my phone and got an alert that my database server was down. I looked, and the website had been replaced with the new shitty looking site. Without notice, this company terminated the service. They were secretly plotting behind the scenes to replace me with a cheap e-commerce platform that looked like shit. I literally had to ask them what happened? Well, they didn’t even include their VP of Marketing in the planning, and she was only sorry and embarrassed. (She later resigned in disgust) So I sent a final invoice for the rest of their contract. Their CFO tried to get me to negotiate what they owed me. I referred him to my lawyer and he quickly realized that we were not going to negotiate. Fortunately, I have a rock-solid contract and they paid me everything they owed me.
  • Many years ago I created a site for a client and ran their site for five years without any problems. They were billed automatically on the first of each month at 12:01 am and their card was charged. They had full admin rights on the website and in the middle of the night moved all of their files to a new host. The client sent a note at 11:59 am canceling his account with me and said how much he enjoyed my job and wished me the best. At 3 a.m. they sent a note to my payment processor telling them that I would not refund them the money. Duh !, I was fast asleep. As soon as I woke up I refunded their money and deleted the old website. Well since the client was an amateur he got the files but forgot a very important thing, their email! A week later they emailed me and asked for their email. I had already deleted the site, so I told them I had to rebuild the site from backups and the work would be charged, just a few hours. The former client got angry and asked a lawyer to send me a threatening letter. Again, I had to turn to my lawyer, and that was sorted out, and they actually had to pay for our time, plus the legal fees. Not in the way we want to end a relationship, but sometimes you actually have clients who are too difficult for you to stay calm, cool, and professional.

Fortunately, both of these examples were anomalies, and after more than 20 years in the business, I can honestly say that I have been fortunate to deal with very good people and have rarely had bad breakups. Nonetheless, he stresses the need for good legal representation and a strong service contract. This will protect you from the rare break-up scenario. And, frankly, it also protects your customers.

Closing thoughts

Look, losing businesses is something we don’t like. But when it does, hit the road, be a professional, and it can lead to business later. Otherwise, at least this company, or its employees, might one day recommend you to their colleagues and friends.

There is never any downside to being nice and professional.

About Nereida Nystrom

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