#103: Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Earlier this year, at my logistics company, we closed a huge customer. A marquee customer. One of the big names in our town.
It took us 10 years—we'd been trying to close this company since we started—so it was cause for a huge celebration. The cold beverages were served, the backs were patted, the bank was told. We were elated to have finally closed what we thought would be a fantastic, long-term customer.
Nine months later, we fired them. We'd moved hundreds of loads for them, and barely made any money. We'd jumped through hoops, waited months for payments, changed our processes to suit their needs, and basically bent over backward to make them happy, only to realize that we were wasting our time, energy, effort and money on a customer that was never going to pay us enough to justify the work we were putting in.
It was a hard realization, and we hung on a few months longer than we should have, as everyone inevitably does in these situations. We had the same conversation over and over in our management team meetings, where the ops manager pointed out how many loads we'd moved for close to negative margin, the accounting manager pointed out how far behind they were on their bills, and the one lone holdout kept saying, "But it's BIGCO! We have to work with them!"
But here's the thing. You don't. You don't have to work with BigCo or MegaCorp or Giant, Inc. You don't have to work with anyone. And when you realize that a customer is screwing you around, or costing you money, or taking up all the energy in the room, it's time to break up. (And probably, it's past time to break up.) This is just like breaking up with a bad boyfriend or girlfriend—don't wait for the holidays to be over, or for their grandma to get feeling better, or for them to get that new job they've been after. Just do it.