Wrapping up business relationships professionally

All of us have experienced the conclusion of a business relationship, whether it is completing a project, transferring from one department to another, leaving one company to join another, or finishing an assignment as contractor or consultant.

How you conclude these business relationships plays a big role in how you are remembered and whether people refer you to potential clients or use your services again in future.

Here are a few tips that can help you wrap up these relationships in a professional way:

  • Make sure that the client or other party has received what they originally contracted. Often, this is about what you have delivered as well as how you delivered it. Check with the other person if you are unsure whether you have met expectations. “We have originally contracted X. Is there anything that is still outstanding?”

  • Should someone take work over from you, make sure that you do the necessary handover of tasks. Leave documentation and records up-to-date and let the other party know where they can be found. This is specifically relevant when you leave a job or when you have finished a project that has an operational impact. “I have updated all the relevant the documentation. You can find it on server Z,” or “Here is the document that I have updated. Is there anyone else you would like me to give it to?”

  • Asking for feedback on how the other party has experienced the engagement will help you to understand what to do differently next time. “I would value any feedback that you have on our engagement. Is there anything you would like to mention?”

  • This might prompt the other party to also ask for feedback, so prepare for this eventuality.

  • If relevant, ask for a testimonial or reference at this point. “Would you be comfortable to provide me with a testimonial or reference that I can show future clients/employers?”

  • People in professional relationships often become friends once the professional part has ended. It could be worthwhile to have a conversation about what this means to the other person.

  • If you are keen to engage with the company or client in future, have a conversation about how you would like to be contacted.

  • If money was involved, ensure that any outstanding payments are settled.

I trust that these pointers will help you to manage your business relationships in the way that strengthens your personal brand.

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Seven Ways to Clarify Explicit Contracting

We all contract with people every day as we depend on others to help us achieve our goals. This includes asking an employee to do something, contracting with a service provider to deliver goods or services, or asking colleagues to make a decision. What do you need to know about contracting in order to manage expectations?

The following seven questions can help you to gain clarity:

  1. What are the roles and who is responsible for what? I am the client and I will clearly define my requirements. You are the service provider and I will expect a realistic estimate and proactive communication from you.

  2. What is the output/product and in what format should it be delivered? The output can be a product, service or outcome, which can be delivered as something tangible or intangible. Examples include programming software, recruiting staff, drafting a proposal or making a decision.

  3. By when is it needed? I require this to be completed by 30 November but would like to have monthly status updates on whether this is still on track.

  4. What processes are involved to achieve the output and what will impact delivery? The furniture needs to be ordered from the supplier and delivered to the office. At the same time, the telephone and PC have to be ordered and delivered. Once the furniture has been delivered, the telephone and PC can be installed. Finishing touches, like cleaning the office, need to be done before the office is available.

  5. What are the costs and how should it be paid? The cost is R3 000, with 50% upfront payment and the remainder by completion. If the cost is an estimation, agree on a date for final figures.

  6. How will changes to the original contract be dealt with? Agree on how changes will be communicated. Who decides about the changes?

  7. What else can impact the quality and delivery of the product? This is the industry knowledge or experience that each party knows will impact the quality and delivery of the product. For example: The type of product is no longer available, or labour strikes in the fuel industry change delivery times. Or your dependable key person has resigned.

A tip: It is good practice to confirm the agreement in writing, even if it is just an e-mail summarising these points.

The value of explicit contracting is that it makes everyone’s expectations clear upfront and helps to minimise potential conflict later.

This is one of the practices that help to build and maintain healthy relationships.


People often use a to-do list to make sure they do the things that will make them achieve their day-to-day goals. But what if that to-do list grows faster than the speed at which you can complete tasks on the list? How can you make sure you are spending energy where it will make the biggest difference?

In his book The 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephan Covey uses the two definitions URGENT and IMPORTANT to classify these activities.

What do URGENT and IMPORTANT mean?

URGENT activities are those things that are visible and require your immediate attention and reaction. Examples of these are when someone walks into your office to discuss something, when the telephone rings or when you receive an SMS or e-mail.

IMPORTANT activities are those things that allow you to achieve longer term results, usually aligned with a bigger goal or your values. These activities are ones that require you to be pro-active. Examples of these are to renew your driver’s license, conduct a performance discussion with your employee or manager, or draft a budget.

When you combine urgent and important in various combinations, you get these categories of activities:

Urgent and Important

These are the things that require your immediate reaction. If not attended to, they will have longer term consequences. Crises, pressing problems and activities with immediate deadlines fall under this category. Examples are:

  • Your broken down car has to be repaired

  • You have to submit your department’s budget tomorrow for inclusion in the company’s overall budget

  • You have to finish a task (by a certain date) in order for someone else to start their task

  • Two of your staff members have a stand-up fight in the offices and this needs to be addressed in order to manage staff morale.

Not urgent and Important

These are the things that do not require your immediate attention but if not attended to will have longer term consequences. Longer term preventative measures and capacity-building activities fall in this category. Examples are:

  • Networking with colleagues or partners in order to create healthy professional relationships

  • Taking time to do goal setting for the year

  • Preparing well in advance for a talk you have to do

  • Studying in order to develop yourself.

Urgent and Not Important

These are the things that require your immediate reaction but are not critical to address immediately, i.e. they can wait. These are usually popular activities to do. Saying no to them is difficult. Examples are:

  • Responding to each e-mail the minute you get a notification, luring your attention away from what you are busy with

  • Drinking coffee with a colleague although there is a looming deadline.

Not Urgent and Not Important

These are the things that are not urgent and also not important. They have the ability to consume your time and at the end of the day you have little to show for it. These are usually pleasant activities with instant gratification. Examples are:

  • Spending your time at work reading jokes or following your old school mates on Facebook

  • Doing admin work that could be done more efficiently by your admin assistant.

These four criteria can help you assess where you spend most of your precious time and to manage your time more meaningfully.

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