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I’m sorry. It’s not you. It’s me.

Musings from a Co-CEO ///

Business or pleasure, relationships are relationships. And as a provider, I live with the constant fear that my client is going to break up with me. It’s a palpable awareness that most certainly fuels my efforts to remain an attentive partner who stays out of the doghouse.

But what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? What happens when a provider wants to break up with a client?

Last month, I delivered my umpteenth bid to a client at a full-service vendor. A vendor I respect. A vendor I enjoy. A vendor that 99.9% of the time does not accept my company’s proposals.

My appreciation of repeatedly being asked for a second date (a validating nod to our quality reputation) is immeasurable. But the time I spend crafting answers to RFPs is measurable. At some point, I had to let my brain overrule my heart.

“It’s not you. It’s us. We can’t fulfill your needs. We can’t satisfy you. We just don’t turn you on.”

Yup, I went with ol’ fashioned honesty. I figured that no matter how much it hurts, it’s better to come clean than risk showing up at a neighboring project with my ex-client’s competitor. Can you sing, “Awwkwarrrd…”

It helped to remember that I wasn’t breaking up a person—I was breaking up with a company. A company with goals and needs that clearly did not effectively or strategically match ours. In business, you can have more than one soulmate. But that doesn’t mean that you’re meant to live happily ever after with every potential partner you meet.

Nevertheless, I was resolute in the fact that my client deserved my utmost respect. She deserved to be let down easy. Who wants to burn bridges? She won’t be with her company forever.

And when she lands a new job, perhaps at an organization with needs more aligned to our solutions, she and I can resume where we left off, taking advantage of the best part of breaking up: the make-up project.

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