A waxing crescent moon
A waxing crescent moon

Parting Ways, Preserving Integrity: Lessons in Authentic Business

Paul Kiernan

Authenticity in business goes beyond mere transactions or client relationships; it's about staying true to oneself and one's values, even in the face of adversity.

We’ve discussed it here before: words that have become so buzzy that they have almost lost meaning. One of these words, and one that bugs this particular copywriter into his past lives, is authentic.

Jeans are authentic, the pick-up truck you want is authentic, and all the things we label as authentic, and then we say, well, your company needs to be authentic, and it just spirals down. There is an old saying attributed to John Wooden, the great college basketball coach, that character is who you are when no one is looking.

Authenticity is like that as well, and that’s what we want to talk about in this article. Authenticity isn’t just when you’re selling or trying to get new clients, more customers, and the like. One of the main attributes of authenticity is how to react in adverse times. Are you all smiles and hats and hooters when things are great, but you turn into a petulant child when things go awry? Maybe that’s your authentic self, in which case, you need to do some thinking.

What happens to your authenticity when a client says goodbye? Who are you? Who do you want to be? Being authentic means you don’t turn it on and off like a light; you’re either authentic or not.

In this article, we’ll look at how to remain authentic and a good business partner, even when the shit comes down and a client fires you. When you think about it, that’s a vulnerable time; when we’re vulnerable, we are at our most authentic selves.

Let’s dive in.

Authentic in Loss

At some point, if you’ve been in the game long enough, you deal with some harsh, inevitable realities of life. One of the unavoidable realities is clients' departure. Whether due to shifting priorities, changes in budget, or simply a different direction, losing a client can sometimes feel like a blow to one's professional ego. However, what truly matters in these moments is not the loss itself but how it is handled. This is where the concept of authenticity comes into play.

Authenticity in business goes beyond mere transactions or client relationships; it's about staying true to oneself and one's values, even in the face of adversity. In the context of losing a client, this means parting ways with grace, dignity, and integrity. It's about understanding that while the business relationship may be ending, the impression left behind can endure far longer.

A red building by a palm tree with Departures written on the awning

Embracing the Departure

The first lesson in preserving integrity when losing a client is to embrace the departure openly and honestly. Instead of shying away from the situation or attempting to gloss over it, it's essential to acknowledge the change directly. This can be done through transparent communication with both the departing client and internal team members.

Openly discussing the reasons for the departure, whether differences in vision, budget constraints, or other factors, set the stage for a respectful and amicable parting. This level of transparency not only demonstrates integrity but also lays the groundwork for potential future collaborations or referrals.

Focusing on the Relationship

While the loss of a client may feel like a setback, it's crucial to shift the focus from the transactional aspect to the relational aspect. Authentic business is built on genuine connections and trust; even as a client leaves, the relationship cultivated during their tenure remains valuable.

Taking the time to express gratitude for the client's past support and contributions can go a long way in preserving the integrity of the relationship. Whether through a personalized thank-you note, a farewell call, or even a small token of appreciation, acknowledging the client's impact reinforces the authenticity of the connection.

Learning and Growing

Every experience, including the loss of a client, presents an opportunity for learning and growth. Instead of dwelling on the departure or assigning blame, it's essential to approach the situation with a mindset of curiosity and introspection.

Reflecting on what led to the client's departure can provide valuable insights into areas for improvement or adjustment in one's business practices. Whether it's refining communication strategies, diversifying service offerings, or strengthening client relationships, each lesson learned contributes to the evolution of an authentic business.

Maintaining Professionalism

Maintaining professionalism is paramount in the face of disappointment or frustration. This means refraining from negative or disparaging remarks about the departing client, whether in private conversations or public forums.

While it may be tempting to vent frustrations or assign blame, doing so only serves to undermine one's integrity and reputation. Instead, rising above the negativity with dignity and grace demonstrates a commitment to professionalism and authenticity, even in challenging circumstances.

Two small purple tulips poking above the dirt

Seizing Opportunities for Growth

Finally, losing a client can often create space for new opportunities and growth. Whether reallocating resources to focus on existing clients, pursuing new leads, or exploring innovative business ventures, embracing change opens the door to fresh possibilities.

By approaching client departures with resilience and optimism, one can transform what initially feels like a setback into a catalyst for advancement. This proactive mindset not only preserves the integrity of one's business but also sets the stage for future success.

Summing Up

Parting ways with a client is an inevitable aspect of business, but how it is handled speaks volumes about one's authenticity and integrity as a professional. One can navigate client loss with grace and dignity by embracing the departure openly, focusing on the relationship, learning and growing from the experience, maintaining professionalism, and seizing opportunities for growth. Ultimately, it's not the loss that defines us but how we choose to respond to it that shapes our authenticity in business.

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