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piggy bankJust recently, one of my colleagues Bernadette, whom I have known for several decades, called me for help.  As I listened intently on the phone, this successful woman entrepreneur shared with me that one of her biggest clients said something to her that was devastating.  Before she even began to share her story with me, I could tell by the tone of her voice she was very upset.

She went on to tell me that she had been working for more than three years very closely with a client and his growing business.  Bernadette and her company of six professionals provide IT services.  She explained to me that because of the client’s explosive growth over the recent couple of years, the challenges and level of service necessary to support this business owner were great.  Nonetheless, my friend was always willing to go the extra mile and was very grateful for the business.  Likewise, this business owner appreciated and often publicly thanked Bernadette for the work that she and her employees did for him.

As my friend explained to me her involvement with this client’s business, I could hear the pride in her voice.  In between the tears. By this time in the conversation, my friend was crying and I truly thought she was about to tell me that this wonderful client died. Instead, she told me that her client fired her.  Fired her?  “Why?”, I asked her.

Apparently, the client recently was introduced to a friend of a relative in the IT business…Yes, you guessed correctly, they low-balled the price and took the client for their own. From this point on in the conversation, I just listened.

She said she never had cross words or any form of a disagreement with the business owner or any of his employees.  They always said “please” and “thank you”.  They even referred Bernadette to their friends for IT services.

I consoled my friend and shared my feeling that it is likely that the new, low-balling IT provider will be bleeding red ink trying to adequately service this client.  My friend Bernadette would have nothing to do with my attempts to make her feel better.  And this is why—she said what upset her more than anything else was what was said to her at the end of the conversation with the business owner.  He said, “hey Bernadette, it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.”

I have also heard this before.  Have you?

It seems that some think this famous line from the movie The Godfather applies to business.  It seems that they think it is okay to say this to someone and it will excuse their unfair decision or poor, unethical conduct.  I agree with my friend Bernadette!  It’s not just business, it’s personal!

It’s personal when you have put a line of credit up with your signature on the bottom of it. It’s personal when you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about the cash needed to fund payroll next Friday—and the families that depend on that payroll to buy groceries. It’s personal when you went into business with your brother-in-law. And it was very, very personal when things didn’t work out with your brother-in-law and you bought him out. I could go on and on.  In fact, I am not sure I can think of one aspect of my business that isn’t or hasn’t become personal.

Learn more about Holly A. Magister, CPA, CFP®, the founder of Enterprise Transitions, LLP, an Emerging Business and Exit Planning firm. She helps entrepreneurs assess, re-align, and accelerate their business with the intent of eventually executing its top-dollar sale.

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