How to Get a Grip on Transition

The faint sound of a horn jolted me out of my daze…

Today is a cold grey November day in Colorado Springs.  The kind of day that shrouds the movie scene when the hero trudges to the graveyard to visit a lost loved one.  Daylight savings wrapped on Sunday I am not yet adjusted to the sun fading at 4:45p.

A few hours ago I was sitting at a stoplight in my minivan with my kids after completing a covert “car swap” with my wife, Christy. She runs a corporate event planning business (more on that later) and just a few hours prior had the minivan crammed full of trinkets, swag bags, banners and name tags.  

So I stuffed my 3 strapping sons into my sedan after school and navigated my way through the drizzle towards the event locale to switch cars for the weekend.  

Sports sedan to the rock star event planner…

Swagger wagon to the Burch boys…

Today is only Tuesday but it’s already been a long week. Christy does 3-4 “big” events a year and about a dozen small ones. The big events are her Super Bowl…she plans for months and then it’s finally here.  

Think of it like planning a wedding…but quarterly.

This particular event also has a mastermind tacked onto the back of it which elongates both the prep and delivery of her genius.  Needless to say the house hasn’t been quite as orderly and the trash bin in the garage reeked of takeout containers.  My mom gets here tomorrow…

Event Planning Hell Week…

There is something different about this event, though.  It’s the 5th of it’s kind for her client; each one growing in stature, attendees and speaker caliber.  It’s sure to be a hit.

What was different is that I had nothing to do with it.

You see, this particular event in this particular town with this particular client was one in a series that I hadn’t missed yet. I was around for the previous 4.  

In fact I was deeply embedded in the events from the jump; mapping out the event flow, the offers, collaborating on the speakers, etc. One of the early events I found myself as the emcee (turns out you have to have this thing called “charisma” to get the nod the next time around).

For three of the events I was employed by this client. I jumped in January 2017 to start my own Marketing Agency but still found myself contributing and helping out at Event #4.  I knew that things would transition as I went from employee to contractor/service provider. I’m not that naive.

And I welcomed each change and turn in the businesses of all my clients; especially my own. The striving and pushing this year to serve at an incredibly high level and obsess over results is going to garner triple the income from the 12 months prior.  

It’s amazing. I’m so grateful, and so blessed. I’m living on my own terms, working when I want with whom I want.  It really is beyond my wildest imagination what has commenced since stepping out in faith just 10 short months ago.

So I knew there’d come a day when we’d have to finally and officially, fully transition my involvement with this one client.  At the time of this writing…it was yesterday.

We found a way to amicably terminate our agreement, try to find a win-win and go our separate ways. “Good lucks” and departing platitudes were exchanged, final invoices were paid, and we’re done.

And I found myself at that stoplight, in the cold drizzle, on the eve of the 5th event with the hotel in the background and my gaze transfixed across the intersection and….

I saw my now-former client. I was leaving the venue after my car-swap and he was headed that way.

My mind wandered on how weird transition can be…

How strange it would be that of the “core 4” employees that started this company there is only 1 left…

How weird it would be to have this weekend away for the first time…

Until I was zapped out of my daze by the impatient Subaru driver behind me.

I’ve never lost a loved one and I’ve never been through a divorce…but I sometimes think of that last moment you shared with that person. They may have been leaving the courthouse, or holding your hand in a hospital bed, or walking in the opposite direction after a breakup…

Maybe you saw the transition coming and knew it was inevitable. Maybe you were blind-sided by it.

But it’s still weird.  There is now this moment in time where things look different.

So how do we move forward? How do we get a GRIP on transition and come out stronger and better for it?

1 – Gratitude

This has been a game-changer for me this year. I start and end each day with gratitude. You can’t be stressed or angry if you’re grateful. It’s physically impossible.  

Every morning I write down 3 things I’m grateful for, and every night 3 amazing things that happened that day.

This is a process.  If you’re having a truly rotten day or feel you’re being mistreated it’s easy to not feel gratitude.  But say it anyways. Be grateful for your things, your relationships, your friends, coworkers, clients, bosses, and enemies. Be grateful that you woke up, that you have freedom, fresh water, get to wear sweats, drink coffee, drive your car, etc.  

Gratitude will take you a long way.

In the transition of a relationship (be it a professional or personal relationship) be grateful for that relationship.  Be thankful for the duration of the relationship and especially what you learned along the way.  Take a moment to reflect with gratitude; force a smile if you have to, and bless the person you just transitioned from.  

Do this daily until you can’t control it anymore and it just happens naturally.

2 – Respect Yourself

I have learned a lot this past year. Others have noted how I have seemingly condensed 3-5 years of small business experience (read: failure) into 10 months. This was intentional as I wanted to fail quickly and find my way.

Through this process, I have quickly identified whom I want to work with and how that arrangement can help me over-deliver.  I won’t go into too much detail here but at this point in my business I take payment 100% up front and have a priority wait list as my agency is full. I know I can deliver results and get ROI on your marketing dollar.

I don’t take this lightly.

This means that I will not bend my fee structure around any situation. (It should be noted here that this was not always the case. In the beginning I would do anything for anyone at any time to feed my family. Luckily I sped through that phase as quickly as possible).

To be more specific, I don’t deal with unpaid invoices. I don’t tolerate excuses of any kind. Life is too short and we’re playing too big of a game for me to chase you down to either work with me or to pay me when the work has been done.  My proposals expire because I can’t wait on the client to make a decision.

I had 1 client hanging on that paid me after the work was done.  This has brought sporadic heartache throughout the year but I dealt with it in hopes of referrals or more business.

However when the agreed-upon date came and went with no paid invoice I immediately terminated the agreement.  Though I saw transition on the horizon it was expedited when the agreement was not honored and it became clear this was not someone that was serious about working together.

3 – Inform

Over communicate. Period. If you’re feeling slighted or you feel you’re not delivering on your brand promise then cut the cord.

In month 5 I took on my first consulting client. I muddied the waters by making it consulting + implementation. We started with a bang and cruised through the discovery day and mapped out a 12 month plan.

We were amped…

Month 1 we got some wins with strategic planning and plucking the low-hanging fruit.  

Month 2 it became clear we weren’t going to hit our projections due to (1) my lack of understanding of the niche he was in and (2) his lack of a crystal clear vision.  

Month 3 was starting to get awkward.  

I called him up and, even though he had 9 months left on his agreement, I gave him an “out” with a few options.  He thanked me for informing him up front and chose the option where we don’t work together at all.

It’s been 3 months and I haven’t heard from him since.

Painful? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely.

If transition is coming and needs to happen you can’t ignore it. You have to inform the other party and come to a resolution.

Which brings me to my 4th point…

4 – Part Ways

Sometimes you have to stop. Just stop it. Either you’re not living up to your promises or they aren’t and you have to part ways. This is better done BEFORE any relationships are marred or irreparable.  

If you see trouble in the future, head it off at the pass and have the courage to part ways.

Think of a time that you’ve held on too long… how did that work out for you?

When you’re tempted to hold on too long, thing of the joy you’re robbing from yourself and others by holding on to something that isn’t working.  Think of what you would do with the time and the dream clients you want to work with.

To recap:

  • Gratitude – look for every opportunity to be grateful
  • Respect – respect yourself and others
  • Inform – over-communicate always
  • Part Ways – be sensitive to the fact that you can’t force it to work

And remember to wrap the entire thing in gratitude.  

Gratitude for working with dream clients; for what you’ve learned; for your personal growth; for having courage; for respecting yourself, for ____ and ____ and ____…

I’m grateful for the ice drizzle. 

I’m grateful for my rock-star wife who is going to crush this event.  

I’m grateful for the moment to reflect on the past few years of events and I’m grateful Mrs. Subaru had the courage to honk so I could take the kids to get pizza.  

And I’m incredibly grateful for my former client that is now “just” a friend.

I wish him well.

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