In my blog post “2 Pieces Of Career Advice“, I talked about my father giving me two pieces of advice as I started my working career which I believe have held me in good stead.
There is actually a third one that wasn’t as implicitly said as the first two were but nonetheless was something that has stuck with me – “Don’t Burn Bridges”.
I have a lived through a couple of great examples where I have benefited from not burning bridges where I very easily could have.
Example 1 – Leaving an Employer
I started with Reynolds & Reynolds just before my 20th birthday as a software developer, working hard and gaining trust over 10.5 years to be driving and building some projects in the company’s history that have truly been game changers (ie CLERA for Parts and their Internet strategy incl carsales).
When I decided to leave Reynolds with a colleague to do our own thing, we weren’t popular with the owners, board, executive, etc and then the fact that we ended up working with practically all of carsales competitors heightened any tension that was there (as carsales was born out of the Reynolds business).
Fast forward another 10 years and I found myself with the opportunity of re-joining that same ownership, board, executive, etc at carsales which I ultimately did and now feel once again part of the “inner sanctum” helping them build and run great businesses.
I could have quite easily behaved in a manner in my exit from Reynolds and even further in my competition with carsales that would have “burnt the bridge”. The fact that I (sub)consciously didn’t and acted in respect of this is something I am happy about and has proven to be the right action.
Example 2 – Re-engaging a Client
When I left the employ of Reynolds and started Digital Motorworks (DMi) as described in example 1, the first client we captured was Pacific Access who through their Yellow Pages field force, had visions of an auto classifieds vertical.
Just under a year into a 3 year contract DMi worked with Pacific Access to execute their plan which at that point they concluded it was harder than they anticipated and made the decision to close.
Pacific Access had signed DMi to an exclusive deal over this 3 years and considering we had forgone other opportunities even the short period of the contract, we were not in a position to not exercise our rights of the contract and therefore had to ensure the contractual commitments were met.
Fast forward 8 years and Trading Post (now owned by Sensis, formally Pacific Access) approached DMi to re-engage for our inventory services. The result was a very satisfactory 3 year agreement to provide these inventory services for the Trading Post brand.
Again, the manner in which we handled the contract exit the first time around could have been terminal for our relationship with the business. The fact that it was not is testament to being aware of not “burning bridges” and acting with integrity.
In reality not burning bridges is not and should not be a conscious decision; you can’t agree or please everyone but the way in which you conduct yourself should be enough that repeat business not be an issue and if it is an issue, it’s probably not your problem!