At the start of a relationship, you are trying to get to know the company you are doing business with and at the same time proving your worth. This of course is a very important time in a business relationship as it lays the groundwork and expectations going forward. However, I will tell you that the end of a business relationship can be just as important.
Many times companies end a relationship with you, and many times there is no-fault on your part. For instance, sometimes a company will bring work in-house that they’ve previously had a vendor doing. Sometimes companies go in a different direction. And sadly sometimes companies close down. Read on as we delve into reasons why the end of a business relationship is so important.
I recently did work for a marketing company, whose client needed to convert their website from a very technical CMS to WordPress. The reason was simple, they wanted to do a lot of work themselves and their old CMS was a bit too complicated for non-technical staffers to add blog posts. We converted this site, and they had no trouble whatsoever. They were very happy with our service, and then one day they informed me they would not be continuing with us as they were switching to a proprietary CMS platform and a new marketing company would be doing all the web work for them.
Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that this would be 10 times more expensive, and they would not own the final product. One of my pet peeves with proprietary CMS website platforms is that I want to own my website. It is as simple as that. Some people don’t care, but I am not one of those people. If it is my website, I want to own all the code, design and content.
But, the company was very nice to me, paid me everything they owed me, and always on time. So, I helped them through the transition, even keeping the site online beyond our contract, as the company doing the new website was behind schedule (Not a surprise ;-)). I will then package up all the files and send them to the company, as they own their website when working with my company, RooSites. This of course will not be the case when they end their next relationship, as they won’t own their website. Perhaps if they read the article below, they would not have made this mistake, which they will pay dearly for years to come and ultimately be dissatisfied.
Now, I’ve run into website design and management companies that at the end of a relationship get very nasty and won’t help anyone who is ending a business relationship. This of course is very shortsighted, as the company and any of the employees will never come back to you. Always take the high road if at all possible!
If you are a professional at the end of the relationship, you stand a chance to someday get business once again. I have also had companies leave and come back as they find out the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, in fact the grass gets burnt out very quickly!
Also, I have had people that I worked with on a website that have left for new jobs, and then hired us for their new company. This happens quite often as most of the time people are thrilled with our service, which not to brag but is unmatched in our industry. (Okay, maybe a little bragging )
Are there exceptions?
In a word, yes! Sometimes business ends in such a way that it is next to impossible to remain professional and friendly.
Here are a couple of examples:
- I had a company I did business with for a few years and had a great relationship. They had me make some changes to their site on Christmas Eve. Their Marketing VP thanked me and said what a wonderful job I did, and she was thrilled that we turned around all their requests the same day. Well, the next day I woke up and checked my phone and I had an alert that my database server was down. I looked, and the website had been replaced with the new, crappy looking site. With no notice, this company ended service. They had been secretly plotting behind the scenes to replace me with a cheap e-commerce platform that looked like crap. I literally had to ask them what happened? Well, they didn’t even include their Marketing Vice president in the planning, and she was nothing but apologetic and embarrassed. (She later quit in disgust) So I sent a final bill for the remainder of their contract. Their CFO tried to get me to negotiate down what they owed me. I referred him to my attorney, and he quickly learned we were not going to negotiate. Fortunately, I have an iron-clad contract, and they paid me everything they owed me.
- Many years ago I built a site for a client and managed their site for five years with no trouble. They were auto-billed on the first of every month at 12:01am and their card was charged. They had full admin rights to the website, and in the middle of the night transferred all their files to a new web host. The client sent a note at 11:59 cancelling their account with me and said how much they appreciated my work and wished me the best. At 3 AM they sent a note to my payment processor telling them I wouldn’t refund her money. Duh!, I was sound asleep. As soon as I woke up, I refunded their money and took down the old website. Well, as the client was an amateur they got the files but forgot one very important thing, their email! A week later, they emailed me and asked me for their email. I had already taken down the site, so I told them I would have to rebuild the site from backups, and there would be a charge for the work, just a couple of hours. The former client got angry and had an attorney send me a threatening letter. Again, I had to turn to my attorney, and it got settled, and they did in fact have to pay for our time, plus attorney fees. Not the way we want to end a relationship, but sometimes you do in fact have clients who are too difficult for you to remain calm, cool and professional.
Fortunately, these two examples were anomalies, and after over 20 years in business I can honestly say I have been very fortunate to do business with very good people and have had rarely had bad breakups. Still, it outlines the need for good legal representation and to have a solid service contract. This will protect you against the rare bad breakup scenario. And, truthfully, it protects your clients as well.
Listen, losing businesses is something none of us enjoy. But when that happens, take the high road, be a professional, and it may lead to business down the road. If not, at least that company, or its employees, may someday recommend you to their colleagues and friends.
There is never a downside to being nice and professional.