When was the last time you took a good, introspective look at your client base and thought about saying goodbye to a client? For me, it’s important to give clients tremendous value and for my clients to know they are fully receiving it. Value can only be realized when both parties understand the reasons why you have a business relationship in the first place, and it goes beyond service and price. When that isn’t happening, it may be time to end the relationship.

Often the single most important indicator of a bad business relationship is subtle and easy to ignore. It comes down to your core values and what makes your business unique. Do your clients value you and what you do? Do your clients see beyond price and truly know why you do what you do and the difference it makes to their organization? Once you understand who you are and determine these answers, you can better identify what clients make the best long term fit.

If you are you expending an extraordinary amount of time nurturing a relationship that isn’t a good fit for your business, it might be time to move on.  Just like a bad romantic relationship, if both parties aren't getting out of it what is best for them, respectively, the best course of action is terminating the relationship, no matter how hard that may be in the short term.

If you do decide to end a bad business relationship, there is right way to do it. You should do it in a way that makes the client feel good and potentially could evolve in a correctional shift in the future:

  • Say goodbye to everyone. If you're working with several folks inside a company, even casually, take the time via email or phone to say thanks to each one. People move on to different companies and different positions, and they take their contact files with them.
  • Leave lines of communication open. It sounds like a no-brainer, but think about how many business relationships you've had that did not end this way. Informing the client that you're not harboring bad feelings about the end of the relationship is important.

The freedom to make choices like this may ultimately be the greatest benefit of being an independent professional.  But it is important that you be graceful and polite when you’re breaking up with a client.  Your business image and reputation depend on it.
Let me know about your experiences in the comments.  Are you contemplating saying goodbye to a client(s) but are hesitant on how to approach it? 

Beattie is president and chief executive of South Miami, Fla.-based Selden Beattie Benefit Advisors. She can be reached at 305-661-9090 or bbeattie@seldenbeattie.com.

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