In my first article, that can be found here, I compared sales to new age dating, but as we all know, things don’t always work out as we had hoped. Things go wrong, relationships end…

We have reached the dreaded break-up and the phrase “it’s not you, it’s me” is used once again. We need to work on a different breakup line, I am almost certain our grandparents used this line in the 50s too. 

I find myself wondering why we are not honest when it comes to the break-up. I guess it’s easier for the person that decided to end things than for the person that actually gets the news. 

The person that decided to break off the relationship has had time to think, decide, and digest what will happen next. They are ahead in the break-up game and possibly won’t show any signs of heartbreak or sadness during your recently received news – while you’re left shattered. 

As you get to know me and read some of my articles, you will find that I love comparing real-life business scenarios to life or love. I guess it’s my way of making sense of it all. In my mind, if I can understand it, I can accept it.

Why do people break up?

Why do relationships and marriages fail so often that statistically your marriage has only a 50% chance of success? It’s RISKY BUSINESS I’d say and yet, people still jump in headfirst at the chance of real love and for being a part of that 50% success rate. Glass half-full kind of people. 

Then you get people that have failed and continue to believe that the next marriage or relationship will be part of the success rate. And more likely than not, they are spot on! The first marriage was perhaps entered at a young age and while we learn and grow as individuals, that’s not necessarily  possible as a couple. You can apply the same in business, to be honest. Our needs change from our mid-20s to our mid-30s (comparing adult life now) much like a business from start-up to scale-up. 

When a company is in their start-up phase and wanting to grab everything that looks promising, they could get into relationships that satisfy that specific need of the journey but might not fit the long-term plan as the company grows and learns. The start-up company or the young suitor is still naive in the space but captivated by the attention they receive and eager to jump into the relationship. No one is saying don’t jump headfirst or don’t fall in love with that beautiful partner of yours. What I am saying is, that as much as relationships and people grow and change, so do businesses and their needs. 

At the beginning of a relationship or marriage, you enter your honeymoon phase and your partner can do no wrong. You post on social media like you are a Kardashian that found the love of her life and you want the world to celebrate with you. The beginning is pure magic, I won’t lie. The first time you go to a family gathering, the first time you wake up next to one another, the first time you cook and eat together, the movies, the beach, the hike, the first home etc. If we could only bottle that in-love feeling paired with excitement!  We’d be wealthier than Elon Musk in a heartbeat. 

Then the firsts of everything turns into the 100th and we no longer keep track and we lose the excitement. Sometimes annoyance kicks in where something was so cute in the first year, it is so irritating in the third. 

“I just love the sounds she makes when asleep” changes once she picks up a little weight after 3 years and becomes “Can you just go sleep in another room? I have an important meeting tomorrow and can’t afford another sleepless night.” 

Humans are weird like that, we don’t appreciate what we have when we have it, we only reflect once we lose it and then realise how blessed we were. (Well some humans at least). We tend to go into autopilot mode after a few years into the relationship and getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, dropping the kids at school, going to work, going to the shop, loading your first bundle of washing whilst cooking, all becomes the new norm. 

As you go about this automated life, you start to become despondent and compare your love story and life to those around you. On that note, I think it’s human to compare where we are in life with those closest to us but to remember to not compare their chapter 30, to your chapter 2. 

The third party makes you question everything

BOOM! You did not know you were unhappy until a third party provided a view that made you question the life you have lived up to now. This can be said in business too. 

You were happy with your supplier that provided a service that saved you 10% of operational costs since you started 3 years ago and have not questioned that savings based on your relationship with them. They were there from the start so you formed a type of friendship one might say. The first 3 years are critical to any startup and it is the make or break years, so you feel indebted to them for sticking around and walking this journey with you. 

Now you are growing and people are noticing how attractive you are. Those “make me lean meals” and late nights at the gym are paying off, and everyone starts flooding your DMs (Direct messages for the older folks) promising you a 20% operational cost reduction or 30% conversion rate on acquisitions or even both. You start questioning why your current partner hasn’t increased their value or strategised how to continuously improve your bottom line. 

A part of you doesn’t want to read too much into it, so you start entertaining some of these attractive DMs to see what it could possibly mean for you. You start liking the attention and the picture that they paint and now there is no going back to the partner that has walked beside you for the last 3 years. 

Communication is key in a relationship

Why won’t they go back to their current supplier to confirm these rates provided by others? They feel betrayed that the existing relationship was not nourished and growth remained stagnant. The current supplier did not re-evaluate the business needs as the business grew. A relationship was formed in the beginning, and during that time the service was exactly what they required but the supplier did not grow with the business. 

Probably one of those “why change what works” scenarios. If only the current supplier continuously looked at ways to increase their value and worked together to ensure mutual success, those DMs wouldn’t have captured their attention so easily.

It is vital that suppliers and customers have a partnership that is built on trust and continuous growth. If the supplier had a relationship built on trust and improvement, and a third party offered the customer more, I can almost say with certainty that the current supplier would’ve been notified of such a message and an opportunity to work together to improve and align strategies would’ve been born.

So why do business relationships (and relationships in general) fail?

  1. One partner outgrows the other
  2. Not enough open and honest conversations about where they are, where they are headed and how to get there together
  3. A third party makes a better offer (In my mind this is the majority of the time but perhaps it’s a little cynical) 

Business and relationships don’t need to be boring. You no longer have to go through life and business on auto-pilot. There are so many suitable replacements in the world that you need to continuously work on your relationship to ensure shared value and commitment. 

Most start-ups change suppliers after a number of years as they reach the scale-up phase, but some stick to the ones that were there from the start but that grew with them and continuously made enhancements to ensure the success of the partnership. 

Be a partner that continuously re-evaluates their value to the customer. Open and honest monthly check-ins to analyse the data of the month on where you are, where you’re headed and the plan to get there. This ensures that you have a transparent, honest relationship on both sides. You are almost guaranteed of being retained as a supplier when you provide continuous improvement and growth coupled with an amazing trustworthy relationship. 

People tend to stay with the businesses they trust rather than to jump ship to save 5%. But again, this is just my view on why people break up and business relationships fail. 

Written by Adéle de Villiers (Senior Sales Executive at FinChatBot & Founder at Corporate Tomboy)


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