Keeping Better Boundaries: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Ending Business Relationships
Finding success as an entrepreneur is all about building relationships with the right people and businesses. A productive professional relationship can give you the inside knowledge and resources you need to cut costs, adapt to market conditions, and make it on your own.
However, some professional relationships turn sour. As your business grows, you may find that certain relationships no longer serve you as well as they once did.
Knowing how to maintain your boundaries and end business relationships with grace will protect your brand and save you plenty of stress when a relationship has run its course.
Safety should be your top priority as an entrepreneur. You cannot ask others to put their health and well-being on the line to meet your business's demands, and you should not work with suppliers who have sub-par safety standards.
Before signing a contract with a supplier or manufacturer, ask them about their safety standards and how they address common workplace hazards. Find out what kind of training they offer to employees who use dangerous equipment and ask about common issues like chemical exposure and factory safety protocols.
As a growing business, you may have chosen a cheaper supplier to minimize your costs and increase your ROI. If, after inspection, you find that your chosen supplier doesn’t meet your safety standards, you need to end the relationship and find a new manufacturer.
When ending the relationship, be careful not to incur any extra fees. Some manufacturers will double their hourly rate or affix a “leaving fee” when you wish to cancel the contract. Make sure you read any supply contracts you’ve signed and keep things amicable. That said, you should cover the following:
You don’t necessarily need to tell suppliers why you are canceling, as this may lead to a more complex exit. If they ask for feedback, let them know you have concerns over safety standards and be direct about the issues you found.
- Thank them for their previous services;
- Confirm that you wish to end the relationship;
- Ascertain any final orders that you need to place.
Consumers today are interested in aligning themselves with brands that reflect their values and ethics. This means that many consumers will deep-dive into your supply chain and relationships before buying from your business. Staying informed and knowing how your business associates behave is key to thriving as a small business in 2022.
You need to cut ties and end business relationships if you discover that a business partner, supplier, client, or consultant has been engaging in unprofessional behavior. Continuing to work with folks who have abused their position or acted illegally will tank your brand and limit your growth.
When ending a relationship due to unprofessional behavior, consider the following:
Being firm but fair with folks who act unprofessionally is key to protecting your brand and avoiding any backlash or retaliation.
- Be clear about the reason why you are ending relationships;
- Avoid value judgments or descriptive language — stick to the facts;
- End with well wishes, but be clear that the relationship is no longer feasible.
Rising costs are an ever-present threat to entrepreneurs. Sometimes, a previously profitable relationship becomes costly either due to unforeseen issues on your end or adjusted prices on theirs.
As an entrepreneur, you must end or renegotiate unprofitable relationships quickly. You probably don’t have the cash reserves necessary to make a costly relationship work and need to make a swift transition to maintain a positive cash flow.
Utilize previous experience and business intelligence to identify unprofitable relationships. Business intelligence allows you to compare financial data with competitors and discover problems in your processes. Getting a better understanding of the issue is key to ending or renegotiating a costly arrangement.
You can usually renegotiate with suppliers as they will want to keep your business and will be open to changes in supply. Consider the following when renegotiating:
Be just as amicable and try to avoid sudden decisions when you need to end business relationships due to costs. You don’t want to burn your bridges, as you may want to work with the business again in the future. Your supplier should be given an opportunity to make the relationship work before you decide to call it a day.
- Thank them for their service and be clear about their value to your company;
- Let the supplier know you are facing cost-related issues;
- Put forward a few solutions like buying in bulk or offering to pay invoices early in return for lower costs;
- Be amicable, but let suppliers know you cannot continue with the same arrangement.
As an entrepreneur in a growing business, it can be tempting to hold on to every client you’ve ever landed. However, as your business grows, holding on to problematic clients can actually slow down your progress and limit profits.
If you find yourself spending too much time dealing with difficult clients, it may be time to let them go. However, negotiating this change can be tricky.
Start by identifying the problem you have with your client and let them know about the issue. There are plenty of reasons why you might decide to fire a client. For example, if they’re asking for too much or too little volume, consider reaching out and telling them. Some clients will be happy to make small changes and can adapt to your future vision.
If, after a fact-based discussion, you still find that a relationship is unviable, it’s time to fire your client.
Hopefully, you can work with clients to make the business relationship mutually beneficial. Sometimes, however, firing a client can free up your resources and give you the motivational boost you need to take your business to the next level.
- Be clear that the relationship is no longer tenable;
- Stick to facts and avoid value-based judgments;
- If you no longer wish to work with them, make it clear that you do not wish to receive further communication in a firm but fair fashion.
As an entrepreneur, you always want your business relationships to go smoothly. However, sometimes you simply need to cut ties and move on. Try to stick to the facts when letting go of a client or a supplier, but be firm on your decision to move forward. You may even find that a firm boundary allows you to pursue new avenues and find even greater success.