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The Complete Guide To Business Break Ups

 Let’s face it: Break-ups aren’t fun.

2017 has barely gotten off the ground and you’ve already had to call it quits with one of your top-paying clients and your business partner’s just dropped a bombshell: they’ve decided to move on. “Hashtag FML!”, you think, about to throw in the towel for good.

But before you do, wait a moment. Here...sit down, have a cup of tea.

We know it sucks, but break-ups are a necessary part of business. Sometimes clients, business partners, contractors – even permanent staff – just aren’t the right fit for your business. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t move forward without doing something about the ginormous elephant in the room you’ve been blatantly side-stepping for so long.

So, as February unfolds (ironically the “month of love”), it’s a great opportunity to examine which toxic relationships need to be eliminated from your business.

Here’s what you need to do:

Ask yourself what relationships don’t add value.

Just as you might periodically clear out your Facebook friends list, when it comes to your business, it’s worth doing the same with your business clients and contacts.

  • Are there names on your contact list that send jitters down your spine?
  • Do you cringe when you see their details, remember feeling demotivated and drained after every interaction with them?
  • Has the relationship already been teetering on-the-rocks for a while?

If you’re nodding as you read this or feel like a resounding YES might just burst from your lips, that particular relationship is probably a good place to start.

Tip: An online project management software can help make managing your contacts less of a manual and laborious process. WorkflowMax, Xero owned project management software, has a really handy Client Manager feature, which lets you sort and filter your clients and contacts and browse any notes you’ve stored against them. You can easily check out inactive clients, and your history of interactions (are there any red flags you need to be aware of?)

Keep things in perspective.

“The only thing that’s the end of the world is the end of the world” - [UNKNOWN]

Ending the relationship with a client, supplier or partner might feel like the end of the world now – especially if you’d been working together for a while – but you just need to remember that you are making a conscious decision to help your business and yes, time does fix everything!

Get legal advice if needed.

Some breakups are a bit more complicated than others. It’s worth reviewing any terms laid out in the contract before taking action. Is there a notice period you need to give them before terminating the relationship? If you’ve been working on a particularly sensitive project together, make sure that a confidentiality agreement has been signed and any sensitive information is handled carefully and professionally.

Remember your reasoning.

You’re a rational, sane, savvy business owner. There was a reason you decided to call it quits at the time. Everything you do has some logic behind it.

Making a list of reasons WHY you had to bail can help here. Make sure you have the list in an easily accessible place. Luckily, there are no shortage of list-apps to take advantage of:

  • Google Docs (Good if you have a lot to say)
  • Google Keep (I’ve recently started using this and it seems pretty nifty!)
  • The inbuilt notes app of your phone (Good if you can’t be bothered opening up an app or remember which convenient bundle you bundled your list apps into)
  • Evernote
  • Wunderlist (Oh, the satisfaction of ticking off items!)

This way, if the client asks you for another chance, you’ll be able to whip out your reasoning in a jiffy and decline.

Stick your ground.

Picture this: a particularly difficult client offers you the opportunity to work on a high-profile project. You know it will be good for your publicity, but you also know the process will be painful. You’ve always had issues with them in the past; they’re insufferable to work with and never pay on time. But they promise this time will be different.

Sound familiar?

There are only so many second chances you can give. Your energy will be better spent elsewhere, working on projects you WANT to work on, with clients you WANT to work with.

So, once you’ve made a decision, hold onto to it firmly. Your credibility is on the line too, if you keep changing your mind, chances are, no one will take you seriously in the future.

Be firm, but don’t burn bridges.

“But the ending, which is inevitable, is just as important as the beginning.” – via Hubspot

Staying professional and calm will help mitigate any negative feelings on both sides – you’re protecting your brand, and not making this personal.

Create a “no negativity zone”.

Put that phone down right now. I get it, you’re plagued with doubts. Did you make the right decision? Do they hate you forever? Will you miss them in 6 months? Are you going to be jealous when you see them walking on the street hand-in-hand with another agency?

But let’s be honest...you’re probably remembering the relationship through rose-tinted glasses. And thinking about the past isn’t going to help anyone. In fact it might harm your current – active and prosperous! –  relationships too.

So pick a date in your calendar – do this right now! – beyond which you’re not allowed to harbour negative feelings. Maybe this coming Wednesday, or the beginning of the next month. It’s a clean slate, positive vibes only!

Have a debrief with your team.

Finally, it’s a good idea to understand how everyone feels about the decision and try to get everyone on the same page. Offer to discuss any concerns or questions your team may have. Let everyone know you have an open door policy and want to be as transparent as possible.


Don’t let your business break-up turn into a poor B grade rom-com. Follow the tips above and you won’t be left drowning your sorrows in a tub of Ben & Jerry’s finest. For further reading, check out what Hubspot has to say to ending your client relationship the right way.

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Mallika Goel
Mallika Goel is the communications manager at WorkflowMax, fresh from the agency world. She brings with her four years of experience working with some of New Zealand’s largest brands as well as more boutique ones. She thinks life’s too short to do one thing, so she keeps herself busy pursuing her many interests: an obsessive love of writing/blogging, fitness, travelling and design.

Mallika Goel