When Good Things End

Sometimes being a business owner means making tough decisions. This week, I had to say a couple of good-byes. 


No matter how we dress it up or how justified the cause, partings are always difficult. They signify a death of something. They can, and often do, resonate with our earlier experiences of loss. They are tough, both for the initiator and for the receiver of the news.


We often avoid good byes, because fundamentally we are nice people and we don’t want to upset anyone. It is one of the reasons conversations about performance never happen, issues are buried and skirted round, negative feelings are never acknowledged and dealt with. Instead, we get on with it and hope the issues would resolve themselves somehow. It takes courage to recognise that, despite all reasonable effort, things are no longer working and call it quits.


What happens then is a burst bubble effect – the break-up is unduly harsh and does not afford the opportunity for both parties to talk it through, show respect for one another and part gracefully.


In business, all associations are partnerships. Be it an employee, a business partner, a supplier, a customer, or a service provider – everyone offers themselves up as a human being, with their gifts, talents and humanity, in a ‘give-and-take’ relationship. Sometimes what is given does not equal what is taken, or what is given is not what the business requires, and the partnerships have to end. 


Not all break-ups are bad. Some are necessary and avoiding them harms both parties. If that is the case, prolonging the break-up can be an excruciating experience, like dying a slow death.  If there is a recognition that partners must travel different paths, a quick break-up is infinitely better than a slow fading-away. We owe it to each other not to prolong the agony and to allow the grieving process to take place.


In my business, I invest myself fully in the partnerships I form. I seek emotional connection and similarity of values. I think this is what gives my work meaning. Personally, I find it heart-breaking when partnerships end, because the struggle of split loyalties is palpable. Do I stay true to my values and my mission, and ultimately to myself, or do I compromise to keep a partnership going?


In the past, I have ignored my intuition, dithered and delayed the inevitable because it was too painful. I hid from it, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. Inevitably, this made the subsequent parting unnecessarily more difficult and hurt me and my business in the meantime.


So, if a ‘break up’ is something that is on the cards for you, my advice is – do it swiftly and gracefully. Allow yourself time to grieve and be sad. In 100% of cases, letting go means a start of something new, for both parties. What it doesn’t mean is a wasted journey – simply that from now on, each of you must travel their own path.