But it can also be one of the best things you do for your business.
Just like in real-life, breaking up with clients can be difficult to navigate and cause a lot of anxiety. Clients, especially long-term ones, can become more like friends or someone who you’ve built a great relationship with over time; and it can be hard to let that go.
But there comes a time for many business owners, especially those with client-focused services, where you need to let one go. We’ve been through this a few times in our (almost) 5 years, so we wanted to share some of the reasons we’ve parted ways, and also some tips on navigating the transition.
Scenario #1: It was never a fit.
When you’re first getting started in business, you can get SO excited at the opportunity of working with a new client that you will literally take anyone, regardless of whether they fit into your business model or not. It’s essentially trying to jam a square peg into a round hole – it’s never going to end well!
We’re absolutely guilty of this when we first got started, and even once or twice after that, even though our gut was telling us not to move forward after our Discovery Call. But sometimes, there’s something there (either with them or their business) that sparks a curiosity that can’t be ignored. So you shove your gut aside and jump in with both feet … only to realize a few months later that you regret that decision. But that’s okay – there are ALWAYS learning opportunities for yourself and your business. One thing we were able to accomplish in parting ways with 2 clients was refining our Offboarding Process, which we are now SUPER excited about. Even though we hopefully won’t be using it often, we know it’s effective and respectful and it was another task checked off our list!
Scenario #2: It’s no longer a fit.
People change and so do businesses – no single person can say they are the exact same person as they were 5 years ago (and if they do, they’re either lying or they have been living under a rock!). Chances are your business has also changed as you’ve grown over the years and you might be more clear now as to what you want – and what you want your clients to look like.
This might mean that you have a client or two who have been with you for a while, but who no longer align with your goals. This is a great realization to have as it shows that you’re very self-aware and able to see where potential obstacles are in achieving your next goals.
We’re in the process of off-boarding a long-term client as we are no longer able to serve them in the way that they need (their business has also grown substantially!) and their needs no longer align with our business model and goals. While initiating the discussion is awkward and difficult, we have a great mutual respect and there were no hard feelings. It felt similar to breaking up with someone when you’re just no longer on the same page, even though there isn’t “one thing” that set it off or they haven’t done anything wrong. This was probably the best-case scenario as to how this transition has occurred, and we’re happy to support them in the future with different projects that align more with our business.
Scenario #3: It’s just not working.
This is SO freaking common and we’ve been noticing this “trend” more and more lately. Some business owners get so excited at the idea of hiring someone to help them out that it almost overwhelms them to the point that the expectations and boundaries are non-existent.
It might look something like this: everything starts off great, communication is good and tasks are being delegated. Then the communication slows down or completely comes to a halt, and now nothing is being reviewed/approved/delegated and you’re stuck. This might actually go on for some time (weeks or even months!) and isn’t fair to us and our business.
You might be able to talk to them finally and communicate what you felt happened and offer some solutions, and it may or may not help. In this scenario, we recommend simply trying your best two or three times MAX to resolve the issue and move forward before deciding to offboard them.
No, we aren’t crazy. We’re realistic.
We don’t have the time to be spending chasing clients who clearly aren’t valuing our assistance. It also goes to show that they aren’t valuing themselves or their business, either. There’s a difference between entrepreneur-overwhelm and just being inconsiderate. If they can’t make the time to tell you what the problem is or clearly communicate where their hiccup is in the process, time to offboard and find a new client who better aligns with your business.
Once respect is established in a working relationship, it’s easier to have these conversations if/when needed. They’ll always be awkward and uncomfortable, but if they truly value what you’ve done for them and their business they’ll understand – and will likely leave you with a glowing review of your professionalism and honesty.