Burn That Bridge: Signs It’s Time to Part Ways with Clients

When you’re in the first few baby steps of your business, the common notion is that you have to nurture all of the pioneers: the first accounts you opened, your first staff, the first clients, and so on.  But just like any other bad relationship, the proverbial “It’ll get better” concept becomes your biggest hindrance from growing.  If you don’t want to get stuck in a bad situation, you have to recognize red flags.  Your business is a big part of your life.  Why stay with people who give you nothing but a really bad headache? So, what are the signs that you have to breakup with your client?

Financial

Time and time again, I’ve told my family, friends, and clients “If you’re in business for anything but money: Quit now!”  The point is if you’re in business with a client whose demands outweigh the compensation by a longshot, say goodbye.

I know a few newbie business owners who made their first big boo-boos by entering into bad contracts.   And by that I mean, going into business which may be detrimental to your company financially.  Maybe somewhere along the way, someone made a mistake in the quotations.  If the contract is going to cost your company to collapse, get out.  Now, under these circumstances, the first course of action is to explain the situation and renegotiate the terms.  I had this client who was in the construction business who experienced just that.  Through the course of the contract, he realized that someone made a boo-boo in the quotations for the retaining walls they had to supply.  During construction they found that a part of the mountain needed more reinforcement, meriting a design change.  They realized that if they continued the project with the initial design, the wall’s integrity will fail.  If they enforced it, they would lose too much money.  Thankfully, Lady Fortune was on his side and his people found a new engineering plastic material that far exceeds the existing design and capacity of a retaining wall.  At the end of the day, renegotiations were made with the client.  On a happy note, they were able to resolve the problem through cheaper means (new plastic material), passing the cheaper costs to the main contractor, and eventually giving discounts to a client.  At the end of the day, everyone was happy.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case as certain clients may refuse a renegotiation.  In the event that this happens, you have two choices: 1) Find other avenues to make money to cover up for the losses, or 2) Sever ties.

Health and Family Life

If your client makes unreasonable demands and calls your business phone at ungodly hours and nonstop during weekends; if he keeps making disparaging remarks about your company, aesthetic, race, or gender; if he keeps throwing a hissy fit, stomps around, threatens you and becomes physically violent; it’s time you burn that bridge.  No job is worth your physical and mental health.  If you’re starting to notice that this client is taking away time for yourself and your family, cut him out.  If you don’t, you will end up resenting the client, resenting the job, and doing poorly in your tasks because you’re at wits end.

National Interest VS Existing Projects of Less Social and Economic Impact

Let’s say, after years of being a lawyer for politicians, you decided to do something different and start a small law firm which deal with civil cases.  Now, what do you do if by some strange circumstance the president asks you and your team to take over the case, represent him in court during his impeachment trial?  More than that, what would you do if your firm was working on its own civil cases then?  Would you send your client to another lawyer who is just as capable of handling a civil case, or would you respectfully decline the request of the president?  My belief here is: in a case where there will be a high impact on your nation, economy, and society; bidding a temporary farewell to your existing business is permissible.  I’m not saying you have to completely abandon them, but there are other options like referring them to other people who are equally as capable.  When you are faced with an opportunity to make the “case of a lifetime” or an opportunity to make a difference, you should grab it.  This isn’t just because it would do you well in business, but it’s also about you having the responsibility to make a change.  Of course, this circumstance may be farfetched, but what if?  Stranger things have happened.

Principles

This one is a no brainer.  If the activities that deal with your relationship affects your principles and the ethics of doing just and correct business practices, burn that bridge.

I have this friend who owned a company that manufactured integrated circuits.  Her client demanded that the production of the chip be made by manual labor, not machines.  The client explained that the labor will be much cheaper compared to the purchase and upkeep of the machines.  Furthermore, this will provide a lot of jobs for a lot of people.  As much as my friend wanted to help those without jobs, she refused.  This is because manual production of the chips leaves more room for human error and quality checking becomes more tedious.

The moral of the story is, if your client’s way is against your principles in business, burn that bridge.  If you truly know in your heart that the client’s way is not for you, and yet you continued to venture into business with him/her, you are going to end up miserable and/or in trouble.  It’s not just about your ways of working.  There are other things to consider.  If you discover that your client is using your goods and/or services, for illegal activity; burn that bridge.  If you realize that your client’s activities aim to oppress minorities, or go against social responsibility; burn that bridge.  Believe me when I say that if you continue to work with someone who is against your principles, it will not end well for either of you.

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