Don't Burn Your Bridges
Business is all about relationships, nurture them even if you have to leave
4 min read
What happens when you're filling an application, and you have to supply a reference from your last employer? I mean, what would your previous employer/client say about you? This part is always difficult to misstate, especially if your prospective employer or organization has to carry out a reference check. I can't begin to share how much some people have lost just because of this.
I see many times people talking down their last employer on social media, and that to me is a red flag. Asides from the fact that most companies try to solve their employee issues internally, no one wants to be dragged across social media in this age of "wokeness". What are the chances that an employer will hire you after carrying out a background check and finding several posts or videos of you castigating your previous employer? I would say - very slim.
Onyeka Akumah, the veteran tech founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, Plentywaka and Crowdyvest, once said that if his company tries to engage your services as an employee and get a bad recommendation from your previous employer, they halt the employment process immediately. I found that quite profound. Not so many may agree with that hiring process, but judge that process by Onyeka's result before you criticize it.
I've had to fill several applications where I was asked to write about my last employers. Guess what? Not every one of them ended on a good note. However, I didn't go about telling tales everywhere. For every sour experience, it was a learning path for me. And this attitude of mine has equally opened more doors for me. For instance, I got a freelance job because of the recommendations from one of my previous clients. The funny part was that this employer's engagement ended rather abruptly, but I didn't make "news" out of it. I just moved on. He felt he owed me and referred me for another gig with some nice recommendations. I got the job, and it paid off fine for the time.
On another note, after ending my engagement with one of my previous employers, after refusing to pay my outstanding, it would almost end in a brawl. However, I avoided it, and today that person and I are terrific friends who have also helped me in some great ways in my startup journey.
The same goes for you as a startup owner or an entrepreneur. Business is all about relationship with others. See your clients/customers as your employer and do well to treat them with the respect and attention they deserve. Your friends or past employers could also pave some ways for you as a startup owner with their network. See them as partners-in-progress, and you will do well to discharge your duties and leverage their networks later.
Victor Asemota, arguably one of Africa's most influential tech investor and advisor, shared in one of his disruptive thinking Twitter threads about this recently. In the thread, Asemota argued that African's seem to have an illusion about business etiquette because we believe that business relationships are purely transactional. Hence, most Africans present a different persona from their true selves with people when trying to do business with them. In his words,
This is probably the root of why we have low trust and don't do business well. Business is not a performance, it is life. Your livelihood depends on your income but that doesn't mean we must become contrived and distorted versions of ourselves out of desperation.
If you fight off everyone that comes your way, either as an employee or a freelancer or even as partners, who then will be willing to stake their necks out for you when you're in a fix? This mindset will help you even while relating with others on social media. You'll not be belligerent to people across Twitter or Instagram as they might be your plug for your next pressing need.
That accelerator you might be applying to as a founder may need to contact your previous employer. Think for a moment what they will say about you and if you stand the chance of being selected among the thousand other applicants. Are you practising "business mode” or are you permanently wired for function. Do people know what to expect from them at any point? In a nutshell, are you consistent? It is that consistency that brings trust. Nurture relationships especially professional ones.