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June 7, 2016

Rebuilding Bridges: How to Salvage a Broken Business Relationship

Business

Jeff Cochran

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Business relationships are just as focused and dependent upon trust as any other relationship. Sometimes, deals fall through, deadlines aren’t met, or the result doesn’t meet expectations. Failings such as these can lead to resentment, but that doesn’t have to be the end of a business relationship. When you’re thinking about whether you should try to fix a damaged business relationship, keep this framework in mind.

Assess the Relationship’s Value 

It may sound harsh, but sometimes it’s better to let a relationship go rather than labor to salvage it. You need to make sure your effort is going to pay off. While this may sound like a cold calculation, rebuilding a business relationship is different from regaining trust from a friend. Emotional attachment may be important to personal relationships, but in the business world, both parties need to bring something to the table.

Know When You’re Wrong

We build relationships on trust, and if that trust is broken, it can be very difficult to repair. Rebuilding trust is possible, but it takes a great deal of effort and sometimes takes quite a long time. First, you need to take accountability for anything you may have done to contribute to the failed relationship. It can be difficult to recognize our own faults, but in the business world, it’s crucial that you’re able to own your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Remember, you’re not just representing yourself – you represent your organization. Personal pride shouldn’t impact those types of decisions.

Open the Communication Channels

Once you have accounted for where you may have gone wrong, it’s time to open a dialog. This can be most difficult when trying to regain a frustrated client or customer, but it’s not impossible. Ask the other party what could have been done differently and if there’s anything you can do to resolve the issue now. Sometimes a singular issue can uncover a larger problem within your organization, so take the time to hear the other party, and then ask if you can do anything to improve your organization as a whole.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This adage rings true in the business world. If you’ve determined where a business relationship has gone wrong, believe that it’s worth salvaging, and have reopened communications with the other party, it’s time to start making moves. If both parties have something to gain from continuing to do business with each other, it makes the process much easier. While emotions don’t play as much of a role in the business world as they do with personal relationships, the wronged party needs to see that you’re willing to accept failings on your part and are taking measurable steps to correct them.

Any business relationship has potential, so they’re almost always worth salvaging. Take the time to extend an olive branch and try to rectify your past mistakes. You don’t want to be known as an organization that doesn’t play well with others.

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