How to Mend a Broken Business Relationship

One of the things I love to do most is create conversations around topics that you need help with. Recently, a member of our tribe asked me, “Lisa how do mend a broken or damaged business relationship?”

Now, this is one topic that I’ve had WAY too much experience with. And honestly, it opened a floodgate of memories of every business relationship I’ve had that DID NOT end well.

You see, the first thing to remember is that a relationship is a relationship – whether the context is business or personal.  And when relationships are broken or damaged, they are painful.

Pain feels like pain. Betrayal feels like betrayal. Hurt feels like hurt. The second thing to remember is we don’t just do business with businesses; we do business with people.

So, how do you go about mending broken relationships? Here are some tips and strategies I have personally used to rebuild relationships.

  • Take ownership over YOUR PART in the breakdown. Now this is not always easy, so pull up your big girl and big boy pants for this step. I know many times when I felt hurt or betrayed or taken advantage of, I could not see any breakdown on my part. But, when I dug a little deeper, I realized the breakdown often was due to my LACK OF CLARITY around expectations or my needs. I might have spoken to the big points, but it was the small points where the perception was different. The big points are like the bricks stacking on top of each other when you are building a house – the big ideas. The small points like how you are going to get it done, by when dates, and expectations are the cement. I’d get so excited by the ideas that I didn’t want to get bogged down by the details. Now, I understand that GRACE and EASE for the business relationship come from the
  • Ask for what you want. I used to worry that if I put together a contract with a business partner, they would think I didn’t trust them. What I have learned (and I’m going to invite you to say this with me) is “It is important and imperative that we have a clear contract because what doesn’t live in black and white, lives in gray.” And EVERY broken relationship, EVERY lawsuit I’ve ever heard of came from the gray area.

Be clear and set clear expectations. Ask for what you want now and in the future.

  • Ask what’s required to regain trust on both sides? If you owned your part and realized that you broke the trust, ask,

What do you need from me to trust this relationship again?” And if you were NOT the one that broke the trust, or initiated the damage, then say, “This is what I need from you to regain trust in this relationship.”

  • Put checkpoints in place. In the beginning of a business relationship or project, put several milestone checkpoints in place. At those checkpoints, it is easier to course correct sooner, so the breakdowns are not as big. Agree on the milestones and the frequency of the checkpoints.
  • Discuss how you will part ways as you are initiating the mending of the relationship. For example, set parameters like “Let’s give each other 30 days’ notice or 10-days’ notice if things are not working out for us. Have that courageous conversation. I know it sounds hard, but sometimes you have to be an adult for the sake of the relationship.
  • Finally, consider bringing in a third party who is neutral and who understands the art of communication and the art of relationship management.

Please watch this episode and let me know what your biggest #AHA was. Are there relationships that you’ve wanted to mend but you didn’t know how? Please comment below and let me know how this episode served you.

Remember, this is your home. We are your tribe, and I’m your sister in prosperity and in possibility. And when I say that I believe in you and I love you. It’s because I do.

14 replies
  1. Taharah Abdush-shakur
    Taharah Abdush-shakur says:

    I would just like to say that I think your journey is an inspiration and I feel solvesses to have come across it. I have learned throughout my journey that relationships of all kind take work and self reflection to be successful but sometimes it’s important to know when the relationship is toxic or counterproductive that it may betume to let it go. I come across many people that I feel are doing something I aspire to do but how do I get that person to be my coach? And what are some signs that I should look out for when someone is not a good coach. I know not every successful person is a good coach. Thank you for this platform

    Reply
  2. Janet Odubeko
    Janet Odubeko says:

    Thank you providing this advice as this came in at a great time for me. I had a business that went sour and recent reflected on what I could’ve did right when things went wrong. I’m grateful for the lessons learned from the business relationship and will be sure to use this advice in my future business relationships.

    Reply
  3. Karin
    Karin says:

    This was really insightful. I recently had a friendship that broke. Now I am always the first one who looks what she has done wrong, and I asked, but I didn’t receive an answer. What I did wrong was writing messages and apologising for everything I could even think of. I think what you said: ‘What do you need from me to trust this relationship again’ would have solved things in a much better way. So, that is what I will do as soon as I see this person again. And see what happens. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Shay M Biggs, Ed.D.
    Shay M Biggs, Ed.D. says:

    Lisa – thanks for every part of this message. Something that resonated loudly for me was in Tip #1: Take ownership over YOUR PART in the breakdown. Being reflective like you, I’ve made myself dig deep to assess what went wrong and why. Yes, a lack of clarity around expectations or needs. For me, I’d also add a lack of clarity around business relationship boundaries. We might be blessed to have business relationships that turn into friendships. Not every business associate earns a right to reside in our inner circles. Honestly, we don’t earn the right to be in everyone else’s inner circle either. It’s a delicate balance knowing how to navigate that truth so that everyone feels like a winner in the business partnership. In retrospect, I see where I could have handled things differently in order to cultivate friendlier business relationships that weren’t confused with friendships where personal feelings became a deterrent in the relationship. The hard truth, but needed.

    Reply
    • Saam
      Saam says:

      Hi Lisa,yes I found this lesson on how to mend a broken /Damaged business relationship to be very helpful, I find that as a woman running a business where I need men working for me sometimes,the situation can become quite a challenge ,putting it mildly.
      Thanks Saam

      Reply
  5. Phyllis Simpson
    Phyllis Simpson says:

    This is great advice. I just wonder about the committment and honesty of both parties. That is, whether 1 side might have ulterior motives or not completely adhere to the plan in the end. Anyway, I think that I would be satisfied in the end either way just knowing that I wanted and did the right thing.

    Reply
    • Lisa Nichols
      Lisa Nichols says:

      Yes, Phyllis. We can’t control other people, all we can control is our actions. Even if it doesn’t work out, walking away knowing you did the right thing is powerful.

      Reply
  6. Boitumelo
    Boitumelo says:

    I have just realised that there’s one particular broken relationship that I don’t wish to mend, and oh no this is not because of pride or not wanting to be accountable. It’s just one of those where you realise you chose the wrong partner to do this with. I mean I acknowledge my role in breaking it down but I won’t ignore the role they played.
    What I took from this program is that, we have to be clear and intentional about the relationships we get ourselves into. Make sure the other party is on the same page as you, lol I’d say have terms and conditions, have rules and don’t be shy about it.

    Remember that relationships have an effect on you. So it’s very important to get yourself in good relationships that will positively impact other aspects of your life.

    Sound like I’m preaching, but this is more like a “dear diary” moment than anything.
    So I’ll take tips to mend some relationships and I’ll love and respect myself to gracefully move on from those that were toxic.

    Reply
    • Lisa Nichols
      Lisa Nichols says:

      There are definitely some relationships that you can choose not to resolve. I’m happy to hear you will use these lessons moving forward.

      Reply
  7. Marie Robinson
    Marie Robinson says:

    Hi Lisa, I have a business partner that broke all rules and I talk to him about it and he feels just because he knows this person that I should feel that’s it’s ok to give this person a key to the office give out pass word to door, come in and use paper for her personal use, write you a proposal for you and another partner out of town with paper and ink that we buy for the business, it has gone to far, your session really helped me, thank you.

    Reply
  8. ameena k gier
    ameena k gier says:

    Hi, Lisa!
    Such perfect timing! I was reviewing a business family who came to me because they were barely speaking to one another. I listened and watched your video and that question of “What would it take?” filled the missing puzzle piece so I can speak with the family about moving forward rather than focusing about moving on….
    Thank you for being here!
    Ameena

    Reply

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