lisa larter business breakup

How to Handle a Business Break Up

Navigating relationships in business is never easy, especially when you reach a point where you have outgrown a relationship with someone.

When this happens, it feels awkward and uncomfortable and often, it’s much easier to just stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.

When you start to attain higher levels of success in your business, and you start to expand your ideas around what works for you, some of the people you originally worked with may no longer fit your model.

This could be employees, sub-contractors, referral partners, and even clients.

When you fail to communicate honestly with these people, it starts to feel like you are carrying around a heavy weight in your business.

Breaking Up Isn’t Easy to Do

Especially when it involves people you have a long term professional relationship with. They may have done extraordinary things along the way to help you and are no longer the right fit for you and your business.

It’s challenging because there are a lot of feelings involved. You don’t want to hurt anyone, and you also don’t want to make a mistake. We’ve all heard the expression, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Here is what I have found. Usually when you are in a situation where a person is no longer a good fit with your business, it is not because of one thing. There have been a number of reasons that have built upon each other that have brought you to this crossroads.

When things start to pile up you have to ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Have I clearly communicated my expectations?
  2. Have I clearly communicated when I have been unhappy with their behavior.

Whether it is an employee or a client, it is usually a skill or their behavior that causes them to no longer be a good fit for your organization.

Just Be Honest

In Steven Gaffney‘s book “Just Be Honest” he says:

“It is possible to lie by what we choose to say, but it is also possible to lie by what we choose not to say. I believe the biggest reason that people lie is fear. Some common fears that may motivate a person to lie are fear of alienating someone, fear of rejection and fear of retribution.”

The cost of not addressing when someone is no longer a good fit for your business can be quite expensive.

If it’s time to break up, you need to start by having an honest conversation. Click To Tweet

The best time to have an honest conversation like this is not when you are reacting to a situation. Your reactive brain and your thinking brain are very different.

Instead of letting this weigh on you, sit down and write out what you want to say to that person. Come to the meeting prepared to discuss what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, how you would like it to unfold and what the benefits are going to be for both of you.

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to have these challenging conversations, otherwise, you run the risk of sabotaging the success of your own business.

5 Things You Can Do to Successfully Prepare for a Challenging Conversation

Here are five things you can do to successfully prepare for this, and if you haven’t read Steven Gaffney’s work, you may want to read his book ahead of time too.

  1. Write down your talking points, the challenges and the reason you want to “break up.”
  2. Think about how to frame and lead the conversation so the other person does not feel like they are being attacked.
  3. Schedule an appropriate time to have this conversation. Pick a date where you have time before the meeting to prepare and time after to decompress.
  4. Invite the person to talk to you, and give them an idea of the topic you want to discuss without going into great detail.
  5. If they try to engage you then, be honest and tell them you would prefer to communicate face to face and during the time you requested because it is an important conversation and you want it to be meaningful to both of you.

Severing a business relationship does not have to end on bad terms. You can find a way to break up and create a win/win experience for you and the other person. If you fail to be honest though, chances are you are going to end up with a mess on your hands at some point.



3 thoughts on “How to Handle a Business Break Up”

  1. Great post Lisa. I recently had to “break up” with a business associate and your advice is right on. We both need to come away feeling comfortable (not necessarily good) with the ending. Your step by step approach is great.


  2. Love your guidance, Lisa. It really resonates with me and it’s helpful to have a way to handle a clean disconnect. This is one of those areas that we are often expected to just know how to do, without guidance, and it’s frought with triggers. I appreciate this topic and your post, which is timely for me.

    Thank you.

    Lisa Z

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Lisa Larter Bio Image of Lisa x400

Lisa Larter

Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.

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