What to Do with Fatal Flaws in Business Relationships

Have you ever had that really, really difficult client? The one where you love their business model, you love what it is they do, and in fact you even love the executives and owners of the company and believe that they’re good people?

Certain people have character traits that make it difficult to work with them in business relationships (and life, too!). I have a client who has a fabulous idea for building a product. They have been successful in obtaining clients and the gentleman I’m working with is a multi-time entrepreneur. He has capital and access to capital.

But, unfortunately, he lacks follow through. We can have a discussion and make a commitment, and that discussion will not come to conclusion or be followed up on within six months, despite constant reminders.

This makes it horribly difficult to manage the relationship and even makes the relationship a little bit shaky sometimes. It’s a difficult situation to overcome.

Fatal Flaws in Business Relationships - David DeWolf

I have found that the best way to manage these types of relationships with these flaws is very directly and bluntly. Despite having great relationship and a great respect for this individual, it’s important that I give blunt feedback. I’m very direct with what this means for the relationship.

The hardest relationships to navigate in business are the relationships that have so much potential and have such a strong foundation, but there’s a crack in the foundation that jeopardizes the structure. Those cracks can be fatal. Despite all the other wonderful characteristics can really get in the way.

This goes for employees as well. With employees, the same thing can be true. You can have someone who is absolutely phenomenal in certain areas: they have all sorts of talent and maybe they’re a great culture fit. Perhaps, though, they don’t follow through on their commitments.

This can send waves throughout the organization if you boost them up as leaders, as they so often seem to be, because others around them can raise questions: Isn’t it important that we follow through? Isn’t it important that we’re timely in our responses?

It’s a difficult situation. Those relationships that are the most difficult to terminate are not those that are totally off. It’s also not those that you don’t need to. The ones that are so difficult to manage are the ones that are so close, yet have that fatal flaw.

What should you do in those situations? Be blunt, be deliberate, and call it out. If the behavior doesn’t change, cut them off. They have become greater distractions than they need to be.


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