How do you deal with betrayal in business?
Betrayal in business. It’s not something that’s ever nice to experience – but when it comes from someone you thought you shared mutual respect and regard with, it particularly stings.
I want to share something that happened to me last year. It’s probably not uncommon in the business world but it’s the first time something like this has happened to me, and I’ll admit, it’s left me reeling. Given I haven’t been able to process it in any kind of useful way my hope is someone reading this might have some great thoughts or techniques to share so I can finally put it behind me!
Last year I took part in a 12-month business-coaching program that was partly funded by the State government. It involved a series of one-on-one coaching sessions with a mentor and I thought it would be a great way to get some outside input for growing my business.
I’ve had mixed experiences with business coaches before, but clicked with this one, (let’s call him Dave), right away. He had all the right qualifications, a wealth of experience and I felt we had similar attitudes and values. I was committed to getting everything I could out of the program, so I put myself on the line and during the first three months, implemented all the suggestions he made.
I enjoyed the program and felt it was incredibly helpful. Dave became a trusted mentor and I was completely comfortable opening up to him about my business. Such was my confidence in him I referred two people to him. One of those people was a client of my business. Someone who’d been a client for several years.
When they first came to us, their marketing was in complete disarray. They’d had a number of bad experiences with unreliable marketing suppliers, which meant they had little trust. We took our usual levels of transparency to another level with them, got their core marketing sorted and tailored a plan that met the lifestyle aspirations they had for other aspects of their business.
"I’ve had mixed experiences with business coaches before, but clicked with this one, (let’s call him Dave), right away. "
Within 18 months we’d become trusted advisors – not just for the marketing side of things, but for other areas of their business too. It was only when they turned to me for more general business advice that I referred them on to Dave; I felt that while we could have given them some help, it wasn’t really our area of expertise.
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Since I knew Dave had multiple other marketing people doing work for him (people he had ‘kick-back’ type relationships with), and did quite a lot of marketing himself, there was a little voice inside my head that wondered whether he would stick to offering the general business advice I sent that particular client to him for … or feel tempted to stray.
In the end I decided he’d act with integrity and also understand that while the plan we’d worked up for the client may not have incorporated everything he’d do himself, there were good reasons. (And, if asked, I’d have been happy to explain those reasons.)
I was wrong.
The very same week I finished the program with Dave, my client sacked us. Dave had referred them to one of his kickback-marketing suppliers. Needless to say I felt incredibly betrayed.
Dave was a person I had really opened up to and shared my heart and soul with. Compounding the emotional distress, we also had to deal with the financial impact of losing one of our best clients.
All of this unravelled just before my last coaching session. Dave showed up to it being his usual self, not knowing that we’d already been sacked. I let the session progress for a while (out of curiosity more than anything – would he say something?) before taking matters into my own hands. I looked him straight in the eye and asked why he’d referred my client elsewhere. Let’s just say the answer he gave was unsatisfactory.
I’ve since disconnected completely from him (Facebook and LinkedIn) and have no more contact, but emotionally I’m finding it really hard to switch off.
So I know this is a bit of a break from my normal Flying Solo articles, but I really wanted to share this story about betrayal in business with other business owners. I am sure I’m not the only person who has had to deal with a situation like this and I wanted to see how other people have dealt with it.
Have you ever experienced betrayal in business? What advice would you have for someone who is struggling to deal with it and move on?