This was a line from the Bruce Springsteen song “Thunder Road” many years ago. I thought of it this week in terms of my business and how it relates. The song talks about change and points out that although the door may be open there is a cost, nothing in this world is free and you need to think about it before making a big business decision. In my business that decision is whether or not to leave a service provider for a different company.
I am super fortunate in that I have one of the best client retention rates in the industry, well into the 90% range. I very rarely lose a client, unless someone goes out a business or a new executive takes over in a company and wants to bring in their own vendors.
But like other businesses I do on occasion have a client go elsewhere. Fortunately, most of the time they return (when I will accept them). Usually, people find out that the grass is not in fact greener on the other side of the fence! Every company has its strengths and weaknesses. For RooSites our strength has always been our responsiveness to our clients. We answer every request the same day. This is unheard of in our industry, with some companies taking as much as two weeks just to make small text changes to your website. The funny thing about offering such world-class support is that people come to expect it. Then when they move onto a new provider, they are dumbfounded as to how their service level has gone down such a great deal!
As a professional web development firm, we do not work on anything without a service contract. This spells out all terms of a client’s relationship with us. This protects both us and our clients and they typically appreciate it! Now most of my clients are quite professional and review the contract and have their legal counsel review as well. So there are no surprises if we break up. Sadly you do once in a while run into someone who doesn’t read contracts and then act surprised at the end. It is utterly amazing to me that in 2021 that you have people who sign documents without reading or having a professional review. But after 20+ years in this business, nothing shocks me.
Here are some suggestions how you can avoid troublesome ends to your business relationships.
- Make sure the company you are working with outlines all terms in a contract. Have the contract reviewed by your attorney, just to make sure you are protected. The biggest thing is spelling out what happens at the end of the relationship.
- Think about why you are leaving. Is it just because someone else is less expensive, if so is the new provider giving you the same level of service? If you like the company you’ve been working with, have you tried to see if you could cut down on your service level and that save you money. Companies change over time and you don’t need as much support after a while as you did when a project first was begun.
- If your provider has done a good job and you’ve had a good relationship, before moving on first have a candid conversation of what you’re looking for and why you’re even considering changing. I recently had a long-term client leave because they had new Executive Director who wanted something different done and brought in her own people rather than communicate to us.
- Be sure you get all your files if and when you move on to a new provider. Companies will typically keep your files for a while, but then they will delete them. You don’t want to be in a position where you lose files that you deem necessary. Usually companies will give you all your files, once your final invoice is paid up.
Breaking up isn’t easy, especially when you’ve had a good relationship with a company. So think about it from your provider’s standpoint. If they done a good job they’re usually going to be surprised when you leave. So handle things in a classy manner, pay your final invoice and fulfill all the terms of your contract. If you can’t afford to make that final payment, then negotiate in good faith. Most companies will be willing to settle with you as no one wants conflict.