I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups)

This issue came to light last week as I told my long-time landscaper that I would no longer use his services for one of my properties. Afterward, I told Petra that I had that horrible feeling of breaking up with a high school girlfriend who does not like what she’s hearing so she won’t give back your Letterman’s jacket and proceeds to throw a strawberry milkshake on your car (we’ll save that story for another day).

In the case of landscaper, he said things like:

  • I don’t know who this dream guy is that you think is going to be better than me.
  • How can you do this, I’ve always taken care of you like a brother.
  • I’m offended because I always give you a special price.

Oy vey, the guilt was piled on a think as cream cheese on a bagel at Sunday brunch with a bunch of Jews (my family). I suppose I should mention that we did not know each other before he started working for me, didn’t socialize or even speak other than to discuss the work on my properties.

Has this ever happened to you?

You call up your contractor to let them know you will no longer be needing their services and, instead of a professional conversation about why you’re making the choice, you feel like you’re having a breakup conversation with your girlfriend or a family argument with your brother?

I bring up this issue because you’re a service professional and I don’t want you to make the same mistake as my landscaper. Please consider the following two points.


Using the bonds of familial relations to guilt your client into feeling poorly about their decision to stop working with you while also creating a false argument to defend the real reason they are dissatisfied with your service, is not going to “save the sale.” Moreover, it’s an adolescent way of being.


It’s OK to become friends with your clients, to have personal conversations and even socialize outside of your work together. However, when having conversations about projects, prices or the continuation or discontinuation of services, remember that you are not their friend, boyfriend or brother. You work for them. Pure and simple. If they are unhappy with your services, you have two choices. One, you can try to fix the problem or two, you graciously let them go. Either way, you’ll find ways to improve your services and will likely stay friends.

Here’s a third and bonus point: If you do work with friends or family, giving them special deals and perks and they decide to let you go, nonetheless, the same hold true. Never mention that you did special things for them. If you’re going to hold that over their head, you shouldn’t have done those “favors” in the first place.

I once heard my friend Ben say, “Don’t lend money to friends if it will be a financial hardship for you if they don’t pay you back.” His point was, the good deeds you do don’t always get repaid so do them because it pleases you to help, not because you require reciprocation. Otherwise the relationship will come undone. And, you might even end up with a milkshake covered car.

Now, since I’ve been treating you like a paying client, even though you’re not, and this post took me two hours to write, not to mention that I gave you that third and bonus point to boot, I expect you to share this post with everyone you know.  If you don’t, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and never write another post or book for you for as long as I live. So there!