One of the most challenging tasks when running your own business is finding clients. Given the challenge of finding clients, making the decision to end a relationship with a client can be extremely difficult. After years of experience consulting with small business owners, I’ve found that there are certain situations where continuing a broken relationship can be damaging to your business and your wallet. They may lack communication and respect, be a drain on your resources, or demand more time and attention than your business can afford, especially if providing the attention doesn’t result in a resolution or a financial gain. Take a moment to examine your current client relationships to see what’s is working and where problem areas are. If you’re experiencing any of the following situations, it may be time to say goodbye.
Just like any other relationship, a good relationship with a client is built upon communication, and respect. Without these key components, the relationship can break down. A successful relationship requires steady, collaborative communication. Each party needs to be able to reach out to each other with updates, questions, suggestions, and guidance. If your client is not willing to provide consistent communication, your work will ultimately suffer. Many communication problems can be fixed through directly addressing them and finding a solution that works for both of you. But if communication problems persist over time, it may be time to end the relationship.
Your client is the expert at their business, but they’re coming to see you for a reason! You’re the expert in your field. Both parties need to listen to each other and provide space for efficient work to be done. The quality of communication comes into play here as well. If a client micromanages your work or is constantly questioning your recommendations, it will lead to inefficient and ineffective work. Ultimately, this will reflect poorly on your own business if you produce work that is not up to your standards because it has been micromanaged or the client has constantly undermined your advice.
Respect is another key component to a successful client relationship two-way street. Your client needs to respect the work that you provide and participate in collaboration with you in a productive way. If the client is treating you or your employees with disrespect or as subordinates, productivity will decrease. It’s toxic for both parties, as it undermines your work. Address appropriate work boundaries and limits with your client to fix this problem.
On the other hand, if you do not respect your client, it may be time to cut ties. Examine your clients work. Does their work fall in line with your code of ethics? Do they treat their employees along with you and your staff in a positive way? Are they practicing safe business methods? If not, your business will also be linked to whatever they do and can reflect negatively on your business image. You are within your rights to terminate your relationship with a client if you question their business practice.
Some clients can demand a huge amount of time and resources. It’s very noble to help others, but ultimately, this is your business and your financial situation. If the amount of effort and resources that you invest in your client is more than what they are directly paying you, then you are losing money. Try having a conversation about work flow and how to accomplish goals in a more effective way. If you’re unable to make more money than you are spending (include your time in that!), then it may be time to cut ties with your high demand and low rewards client.
Client relationships can see ups and downs, and it’s best to address issues and try to fix them if you can. But when solutions don’t come or don’t last, it’s time for a change. Instead of spinning your wheels trying to make improvements on a broken relationship that never seems to improve, it may be time to cut ties and move on to new, more successful relationships.