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I sacked a client today.

They were my third longest-standing customer and only the second one I’ve ever let go.

Terminating a client relationship is never easy (especially in this economic climate), but sometimes it needs to be done.

There are many different reasons why client/supplier relationships can fail:

  • Nonpayment or chronic late payment can sometimes be the issue.
  • You can have mismatched expectations, where what the client wants and what you can deliver can’t be aligned.
  • Other times, the client can start issuing unreasonable demands or being excessively critical, disrespectful, unprofessional or even abusive.
  • Maybe, following the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule), they are part of the 20% that causes 80% of your stress.
  • At other times, a strategic realignment is required if either your or the client’s business has evolved and you are no longer a good fit.

Each of these situations underscores the importance of mutual respect, clear communication and aligned expectations in a client-business relationship. Sometimes, saying goodbye to a client, painful as it might be, can open new doors and lead to healthier, more productive opportunities.

I’m not going to go into the gory details of what happened in this case. But (and you can call me a wizened old dinosaur if you want), I firmly believe in having principles (in business, as well as in life).

One of my business non-negotiables is that I will treat my clients professionally and expect them to behave professionally in return. When that stops, it’s time to say goodbye.

Having principles in business means knowing when to say ‘no’.

The Importance of Principles

In the hustle and bustle of running a business, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture. Yet, amidst all the chaos, your principles are a guiding light that will keep you on track.

Sticking to your core values isn’t just about making moral choices; it’s the bedrock upon which sustainable and successful businesses are built.

Principles aren’t just there to help you decide to fire a client. Whether deciding on a new product, choosing employees or handling customer complaints, your values guide you towards decisions that feel right and are right for your business. It’s about making choices that you can stand behind – ones that reflect what you and your business stand for.

Principles and Authenticity

Today’s consumers are more informed and discerning than ever. Authenticity is not just appreciated; it’s expected. Customers can sniff out insincerity a mile away, and nothing turns them off faster than a business that says one thing and does another.

Sticking to your principles builds trust with your customers. It shows them that you’re not just in it for the quick buck but that you genuinely care about delivering value and making a difference. This authenticity fosters a loyal customer base that’s more likely to stick around for the long haul.

But it’s not just about customers. Your principles also play a crucial role in shaping your company culture. They attract like-minded employees who share your values and are committed to your vision. This creates a strong, cohesive team that’s motivated not just by their pay packets but by a shared sense of purpose.

A strong company culture, in turn, leads to higher job satisfaction, lower turnover rates and better performance overall. It’s a win-win.

Principles and Resilience

Running a business is bloody hard. There are always highs and lows, successes and failures. In tough times, your principles act like an anchor. They remind you of why you started this journey in the first place and what you’re fighting for. This sense of purpose is what keeps you going when the going gets tough, enabling you to emerge stronger on the other side.

Finally, sticking to your principles is about building a legacy. It’s about creating a business that you’re proud to put your name to, one that makes a positive impact on the world. It’s about being remembered not just for what you achieved but also for how you achieved it.

So, to all the small business owners out there, I say this: your principles are your most valuable asset. They define you, differentiate you, and drive you forward. In a world where everything is temporary, and businesses look the same, your values are the constant that will guide you towards lasting success.

As you forge ahead, keep your principles close. They’re not just the foundation of your business; they’re the heart of it.

Now… is anyone looking for a principled web designer…?

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