Seasonal Business Relationships
Making the decision to end a business relationship or season has been some of the most difficult periods in my adult life. As I started writing this entry, Facebook memories reminded me of something I posted 3 years ago. (see below)
Saying no and walking away from things or people that no longer add value has never been difficult in my personal relationships, but in business it still presents a challenge for me. I always preached to others about respecting yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, but it is much harder when you have to implement those actions in business. I constantly worry that I am making the wrong strategic move and try my best not to burn bridges. But it can be very difficult, especially when you are a giving person like me and sometimes blinded by my willingness to help others.
Although I started developing my strategic planning skills in 2008 with non-profit organizations and established J.R. Events in 2015, it wasn't until 2017 when I began to see an increase in my clientele. I worked a lot of pro bono or low paying event coordinator assignments to perfect my craft. In fact, I was in the red for the first couple of years because those events were not quite paying the bills.
Later J.R. Events started to grow and I encountered clients who were unhappy because I became less accessible for lower-paying event jobs. This may sound strange, but that’s when I struggled with the idea of loyalty. I built relationships with those clients and felt bad that I needed to stop working their annual events at the same price and pace because I didn't have time.
Like any other entrepreneur’s vision the goal is to eventually make money working in your passion, which is was why I needed to migrate away from events that weren't compensating me comparable to the market rate and continued to consume a lot of my time. Some of my clients gave me sob stories in order to take advantage of my kindness and attempted to make me feel bad for not having time. They made it seem as if I owed them for "giving me exposure" when in fact I didn't owe them anything because I contributed countless hours to the success of their events and never received one referral from it.
Fortunately I have an aunt in my life who helped jump-start this thought of 'seasons'. The back story of our relationship, is that she is not only family, but she has blessed me with her time by driving 5 hours (Pensacola to Jacksonville) to provide support and assist with weekend events and weddings over the last 4 years. She once told me that I have been too nice and that my season of giving was complete. Not only was it complete, but it was time to reward myself by putting my priorities first. I explained why I was feeling bad about ending certain business relationships and she quickly reminded me "You are forgetting that the client received just as much from you in return. You went above and beyond for a long period of time, and now it's time for you to move into your next season. Their season is up!"
Immediately following this conversation, I contemplated ending a particular client relationship and other business endeavors that no longer served me for months. I prayed and asked God to reveal anyone or any business situation that was no longer a good match for my future. I remember advising the client that I was unable to assist with regular event tasks and initially it was received well. The client actually congratulated me because of my success. But a couple of months later I was still being asked to do those same event tasks and they weren't respecting my request to limit our activity which utimately would help my growth. When I didn't contribute as they requested, it was discussed unprofessionally with other people which later came back to me. My prayers were answered. The things said in the dark came to light which helped me reveal their true mindset. Here are my thoughts about that business relationship:
Some people aren't loyal to you. They are loyal to their need of you. Once their needs change or you are no longer providing what they need, so does their loyalty.
As I navigate through business endeavors and business relationships, here are some valuable questions I read in Steve Harvey's book "Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success"
Write these down or print them out, but be sure to reference them!
1. Does it move you closer to your vision or goals?
2. Does this conflict with something you need to complete?
3. Will agreeing to this endeavor mutually benefit all parties?
4. Will you be fairly compensated?
If you answered No to any of these questions, you may want to say No to the situation. Saying No may help you potentially avoid loss of time and/or loss of money. Sometimes, I revert to my old ways of giving too much to clients and I always end up regretting it later.
Unfortunately this past weekend, I fell into my old patterns and worked a wedding that received two 'No' answers to questions 3 and 4. I am guilty of still giving too much and I definitely should have canceled the contract when the final payment was not received on time, but let's just say this was a hardcore lesson to learn. The wedding was so bad that the police were called which has never happened to me in my 11 years in the event industry. Additionally, the interactions during the week leading up to the wedding were very toxic, confrontational, and chaotic. Everyone complimented me for handling the situation very well considering how stressful it was, but I simply replied "I can only focus on what I can control." Shoutout to my amazing interns and staff (7 of them) who helped me stay calm during this time, they were all a huge help!
My aunt is probably reading this and saying "I told you so, end the season of discounts already!" as well a few other colleagues who may be reading this entry. For those saying it, here is my response: I am working it! Growth isn't easy.
Now on this journey I am going to turn this lesson into a blessing and enforce the power of saying NO to discount requests and anyone who doesn't value my business relationship appropriately.
Lesson: When you say "Yes" to others, make sure you aren't saying "No" to yourself.
Today I canceled a wedding contract. It was a difficult conversation, but I decided to say YES to me.