“What got you here, won’t get you there” – Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
This post isn’t about leadership, coaching, or ways to win. It’s in the context of when you have to make the hard decision and cut a partner or vendor that has been in your service for many years. Why? I’ve done it wrong many a time. It wasn’t good.
Any sales guy worth their salt will tell you it’s all about the relationship and, in my time, that advice is right. I’ve gotten more done on the backs of relationships than not. I’d even bet that I was more successful with the relationship than without. That kind of deep partner. The kind that involve knowing each others’ spouses, kids names, where they go to school, sharing the good times and the bad.
So, what to do when the partnership no longer performs to standard? When should you cut bait and move onward? Here is some of my practical advice having been through those scenarios.
#5. Measure against Expectations. I am one of those guys who preach, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If partners aren’t performing, can you quantify your unhappiness? Are you able to explain the failure against what is contracted? Even if it’s outlined in a statement of work, the key is “outcomes” and ensuring expectations are laid. The more nebulous or gray it’s kept, the harder this will be to enforce.
#4. Give Feedback Often. I sometimes include contractors in my quarterly evaluation. I mandate minimum annual review of yearly contracts against our organizations’ outcomes. This is the administrata. However, what I am referring to is getting on the phone at least quarterly and letting your partners know how they are doing is good business. Even if it’s a difficult conversation. Let them know what the issues are as they happen. Let partners attempt to fix. This goes to the root of a good relationship.
#3. Have a Plan. After multiple conversations and no progress made, it’s time to formulate an exit strategy from your partner. Examine contracts, look at work product, what is your obligations, how did they violate, was it reasonable effort to resolve? Look at replacements, can you transition easily, what is necessary to transition? Cost deltas? Time impacts? Have a plan to move.
#2. Warn Before You Cut. Plan in place, I’d give it one more opportunity to fix. Relationships are hard to build and long to cultivate. Give them the final meeting where it’s on the line: change or we move on. If hands are tied and your partner isn’t responding fairly, then you know what you need to do.
#1. Always Treat With Respect. As much as our instinct is to light a fire and watch it burn, how you leave the relationship speaks volumes about your character an professionalism. Not to mention reflective of your company. Send the letter formally terminating the relationship and stop paying the bill. Then walk away and don’t look back. Move on with respectfulness.
Food for thought.