In the Trenches:
What To Do When Your
Processing Relationship
Goes Sour.

by Steven Pavent

   I always try to write about things that affect my business on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully these are similar issues that many of you experience. Today I want to talk about something that doesn�t get talked about often. What usually happens and what is the best course of action if you have to divorce your processor or vendor?
   Let me start by using a couple of lines that we�ve all either heard or said before: �Sometimes people just grow apart.� That goes for business relationships as well. What may have been a great marriage 2 or 3 years ago may not be working for both parties today. Also �it�s not you, it�s me� means that it may not necessarily be anyone�s outright fault. Maybe you�ve learned more about the business and grown, and they�ve not nurtured that growth? Maybe the personal service that initially attracted you to them has disappeared as they�ve grown? Maybe they want to get rid of you because you bring bad credit deals with no margin and once they needed them, but they no longer do? Maybe you�re rude to their support staff and �they are not going to take it anymore�? Whatever the reasons, there shouldn�t be any need for things to get nasty.
   First, know what your contractual obligations are and do your best to adhere to them. Second, know what the vendor�s obligations are and make sure they honor their commitments as well. Maybe your best bet is to try and amend the terms you�re working under to make the relationship better. A negotiating course I once took says to determine your BATNA. That�s the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Determine what�s the worse case scenario and if you can live with that. Studying your agreements and knowing the temperaments of the people you�re working with will help you determine this. If you can�t live with a worse case scenario then maybe you want to put more effort into working it out.
   The big troublemakers, when it comes to ending a relationship, are ego and honesty. For some reason even people who claimed to be your good friends don�t take kindly to being fired. Even if you just quietly go away, they notice. So try and deal with this issue up-front. Speak to them let them know what your reasons are. Is it that they�ve not done a good job? Is it that you�ve just outgrown them? Either way have your facts straight and stick to them. I�ve noticed if you give a good honest effort and communicate your needs many people will respond in kind. Be respectful and deal with the facts, not the way you feel about the facts. You may be angry because of some things, but there�s no place for that anger if you want things to go smoothly. In a business break up the golden rule still applies. Treat others the way you�d like to be treated. Don�t be a big baby yourself if you don�t want others to act like big babies. Don�t ask for everything and give nothing if you don�t want them to do the same.
   Last, be ready to negotiate and give up some things. Remember things change on a daily basis in our business so think about where the market is now. Be reasonable and presume the other party will be reasonable also. Always assume the sale and create a self- fulfilling prophecy. If you�re paranoid that someone else is going to screw you and you start behaving that way, others can sense it. So keep calm cool and strong.
   It�s not rocket science, it�s actually more complicated because people and organizations are so complex and unpredictable. However, if you�ve chosen your partner right and dealt with them in an honorable and honest fashion during your relationship, then the breakup should be okay.
   One last thing is the old saying: �don�t burn your bridges.� How many times do you hear of people re-marrying people that they�ve divorced in the past? Crazy as it sounds if both parties do the right thing in the breakup then there is a lot of room for the future. Who knows that you may not be right for one another again in the future. Remind the vendor of this also. Go over how you are going to share custody of the kids (merchants), because in our business there very seldom can be a clean break. So make your next breakup a happy one!