Marketing & Business
piece written on the 1st July 2016 by  

I’m a strong believer in reflecting on experiences, looking for problems and then correcting them. I believe that this is how we become better people, run better businesses and in general this is how we grow. So I’ve written blog posts on things I did when I started my business and then 5 years later I wrote about things I’d learnt. Both of these blog posts focus mostly on the positive and perhaps there’s room for a post about things I did incorrectly and have thus reflected on, but that’s a story for another day. Today I want to jot down something on a recent experience, it’s nothing incredibly insightful but I believe there are some key lessons to learn from it.

Relationship Quotes

We’ve been working with an incredibly well known brand, a brand that’s an honour to be able to list on your brag list. The project results are out of this world, we’ve seen increases in organic traffic of a few hundred percent, we’ve increased the website’s visibility second to nothing and most importantly, we’ve grown their bottom line. However, about a month ago I found myself in a very awkward position, they hadn’t paid any invoices for a few months and having followed up a couple of times I had to push a little harder. Needless to say, I received an unpleasant phone call from them saying that they hadn’t received invoices nor had they received much communication from us – I felt ill to my stomach and it’s a phone call I’ll probably never forget. The outcome though was that their accounts department had received the invoices but just never made any payments and all our correspondence had been received but the person receiving it didn’t pass it along accordingly. I was pleased that the fault didn’t come from our side (even though I knew it didn’t) and I felt even better when I got a gentlemen’s apology.

But, from this point onwards it felt like the relationship had been tainted. It felt awkward and when the end of the contract came there was no interest from there side to renew it, despite some of the most incredible results. I was completely stumped, we did excellent work, the sort of work that would be incredibly odd to no longer want – it was completely illogical. I have built my business on relationships, it’s the most important source of new business for us. It would have been easy to just move on, because contracts come and contracts go, and that’s business, but I was unhappy. In my decades of working in the digital space I can probably think of only two projects that I’ve been involved in which didn’t end positively and they were years ago. I’m all about relationships and I won’t sleep until someone is pleased with our services – that is how I’m programmed, simple as that.

I decided that I had to reach out to said client to find out what we could have done better and to lean in the direction of apologising for not delivering on all expected aspects. I needed closure, I needed to make things right and most importantly, I needed a client that would be happy and that would speak highly of my company. So I did it, and I got a response back from them quite quickly:

You are so wrong! We are a very satisfied customer and the decision to end the contract is not a reflection of your teams work but rather about our own strategic direction and allocation of financial resources. Please rest assured that we will definitely recommend your services and re-engage with your company should the opportunity present itself in the future. Thank you for your efforts, commitment and results. Feel free to stop by at any time or reach out as its been a pleasure to deal with you and wish you all the best.

Note: I’ve removed a few sentences from the response as it wasn’t necessary to publish.

I cannot explain how happy I was to receive their response. Not only do we have a great results-based case study, but the ability to also say that our client was incredibly happy – the case study is that much more valuable. But that’s not the point, the point is that there is a great relationship and has been preserved.

There are a few lessons to take from this:

  1. Never be scared to reach out, even if it means taking the back foot. Pride and ego are bullshit.
  2. Be confident in your work, not everything works out but if you’ve put everything into what you’ve done, chances are that you’re just being too hard on yourself if you start getting doubt.
  3. Keep your relationships going, don’t take an in and out approach – that is doom for any business.

This post has grown a lot longer than I had initially wanted so I’m going to end things there and hope that we can start a discussion in the comments below.