Community Post - Why I Lost Business But Kept the Relationship


The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, "The only constant is change."  There have been numerous books written on the subject of change, and countless seminars and talks given on how important it is to embrace and adapt to change.  It's in these moments, when the tide shifts, or as author John Kotter says "Our Iceberg is Melting", that we find out just exactly what we are made of.  Some lose hope and raise a white flag in defeat. Others, however, unleash an impressive display of what Bill Petrie recently described as grit - or "an unwavering commitment to the long-term objective." These survivors. . . the Edisons, Einsteins, and even The Beatles of the world. . . live through these battles to tell the tales that inspire generation after generation of dreamers and entrepreneurs. Jeff Solomon recently had a client whose business world was turned upside down.  As his client is navigating through this uncharted territory, Jeff has maintained communication with the client and is proving that service providers can also double as incredible support providers.  Here's his story on the subject.    What's yours?


Why I Lost Business…But Kept the Relationship?

For years I’ve done nice business with a large company in our community and have a great relationship with the owner. He’s a good guy whose company represents the American Dream.  This is the client we all want. He started as a small two-person operation and grew the company into a large business, employing over 300 people. They buy nice quantities, are easy to work with, like to use quality merchandise, and pay their invoices promptly. In addition, a while back I let our local business community know about a program for a low-income school that my church had adopted. His office promptly called to let me know there was a donation check ready for pick up.

This past year, his business dropped off which was a bit of a disappointment. One of the things I enjoy is making personal visits to my clients. Even though I had done no business with this client for a while, our relationship stayed strong. During one of my visits, he shared with me that it had not been a great year. “That happens,” I said, “companies have up years and down years.”

When we talked again recently, he was more candid in explaining what was happening. The conversation floored me and I’ve been pondering the implications ever since. My client explained that Homeland Security had come into his business with badges asking to see their I-9 employee forms. The Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services document. His I-9 documentation was in perfect order, but apparently the Social Security documentation provided by his employees was not. As he explained it, because the paperwork was correct, there was no fine, which was good, because companies are being fined up to one million dollars if the documentation is not in order.

With no fine being issued, you would assume there is a happy end to this story, but the problems he now faces as a result of the after effects are more troubling. His skilled workers that didn't have valid Social Security Numbers needed to be let go.  Lack of skilled workers has crippled his productivity, and that's just the beginning of it. Looking at me with all sincerity after our conversation he said, “Jeff, this is why I haven’t been able to buy anything from you.” I was stunned. The impact on his company is significant and the implications are frightening. He told me that other well-known businesses in our community have had the same thing happen.

Immigration is a hot issue and this commentary was not written to address that topic, but instead to bring to light the fact that companies will face challenges of all types. This particular challenge is a bit unique, but represents a marketplace that is constantly changing.

The most important take away from this commentary is simply that the value of solid relationships in business is priceless. Even though I didn’t do business with this company last year, I continued to keep lines of communication open and this strengthened our relationship. I’ve always had the highest amount of respect for this man. He has shown his integrity and commitment to running a great company for many years. This storm will be weathered and when he is a position to buy again, I’m confident he’ll call me. Why? Because good business is built on good relationships.

Jeff Solomon, MAS is affiliated with a Top 10 distributor company and also publishes, a popular industry resource.

What about you?  When change is staring you in the face do you take bold action immediately, or deny and/or resist it? Even more, what do you do when it's your client's world that gets turned upside down?  In what ways have you provided support to help your client climb back to the top?