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Sometimes, there is a moment in commercial relationships when “love has left the room”. In such situations, you can be so disillusioned that you don’t care about rekindling the spark that once existed. The situation might involve a large client that you welcomed a few years ago with open arms, that has now become a difficult and costly relationship to maintain.

A client not paying their bill on time may be the cause, or a very frustrating symptom, of a business relationship deteriorating.

Consider these three common stages of a deteriorating commercial relationship and discover what can go wrong, allowing you to identify potential problems before they become business relationship-ending issues:

An avoidable client journey | smartAR


Things started out well. The business relationship was established by a personal introduction to the owners and they seemed like great folks. You may have taken your new prospects to lunch and shared stories of raising children or past glories on sports fields.

They operate a healthy, growing business and you were able to quickly establish a rapport. Better still, the fit of your product or service to their business needs are ideal.

You stay up late, research their industry and agonize over every aspect of your proposal, presentation and pitch to this new client. Your investment of emotion and time is immense.
Success!! You celebrate your “big new client” and things are indeed rosey.


Things are different now. You visit your client’s town – but don’t visit them. There are so many new prospects to chase and somehow the schedule doesn’t allow enough time.

They too have changed. Originally, you dealt directly with the owners, but now it tends to be your team dealing with their leadership team. When problems pop up your team works it through but without the investment of those many prior years in a relationship. Business is going well but the relationship does feel more transactional. No worries – things are ticking along nicely with these “good clients” without too much effort.


They haven’t paid you for a large purchase made just before Christmas. You did try to expedite the order but it was made at a wildly busy time and finally shipped a week later than expected.

They started making promises to pay early in the New Year, but so far…nothing. It’s now March and you still haven’t been paid. You’ve got your own bills to pay and worry at night about cash flow.

Before Christmas, they pestered you by phone, every second day, for an early delivery. Now, they don’t even return your calls or emails. When you tried to contact the owners directly you were told they are “unavailable”; on holiday overseas until May.

At one stage the debtor disputed a tiny amount of the bill but hasn’t paid anything at all. You wonder whether they are in financial trouble? It’s black and white to you. They owe the money and should pay – now.

You’re absolutely resolute that you don’t need to waste any more time or money on this client. You happily send the bill to the debt collectors. You hope that this will “sort them out” and wish out loud the debt collectors inflict some pain in the process. It’s only fair you reason since you’ve invested way too much time, energy and emotion into this lost relationship. Any love has long since left the room.

It’s notable that at both the Love and Hate stages, we make a much larger investment of time and emotion. One fuels the other.

It’s also rare that good clients leave, or become bad clients, overnight.  Just like in any relationship, love tends to slip away quietly when you’re not paying attention.   

Does any of this sound familiar?  Have you ever had a good client turn bad?  What might have saved this relationship? 

This scenario paints a high-level picture of the stages of a deteriorating commercial relationship, and by recognising some of the signs of indifference, you can avoid falling into Hate. Often, cash flow issues can be the kindling to the burning of professional relationships. To help your business avoid cash flow issues, we’ve put together a number of free resources for your consideration, including ‘Three Simple Process Changes To Quickly Improve Your Firm’s Accounts Receivable Cash Flow

At smartAR, we provide a range of business cash flow improvement tools to save time and help grow your business. Learn more about our cash flow management solutions here

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