Relationships – Better the second time around?

Posted on: December 2, 2008

It’s interesting when stuff in your personal life echoes stuff in your work life…

Take romantic relationships. There is generally a view that you don’t go back to old ones – you’ve been there and done that. Most people move on and don’t look back – unless you do that reflective thing where you think hard about what went well and what didn’t, what you can learn and how you can improve your chances in the next relationship. This thought was prompted when I was researching a presentation for next week’s “CLT Managing a Family Law Practice” conference and found a site called www.remarriage.com – about second marriages rather than remarrying a previous partner. There are a few obvious exceptions though – look at Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They were married for a decade and divorced and then they married again (although it only lasted a year or so the second time). I guess that’s the type of clients that family lawyers like…

At a business dinner recently, I listened to a managing partner of a law firm tell me that he had changed his auditors after a beauty parade. Obviously the winning firm were good at pitching (the courting part of our relationship analogy above). Unfortunately, they didn’t appear to be providing as good a service as the dismissed incumbents and he indicated that he would soon be switching back.

Talking to another lawyer recently, I was told that as a result of some management change a lot of work had stopped coming from a large financial institution client. However, too many users of the services had expressed dissatisfaction with the newly nominated lawyers and had gradually all reverted to using the original law firm – despite the institutional edict about the nominated lawyers.

And just this week I was talking to client who is a patent attorney who said that the entire portfolio of a large electronics multinational had been moved away from his firm – causing more than a bit of consternation as they had been repeatedly told that they were doing a great job – but that another attorney was significantly cheaper. But after a relatively short while, the majority of the new cases were directed back to his firm as the client hadn’t found the service to be anywhere near as good as before.

There’s also all that interesting research that shows that when clients complain and find that the issue is dealt with swiftly and well, they usually become more profitable clients in the long term. Sounds to me like a good reason to listen (and act) when your life partner expresses their grievances. And then, of course, there are those really irritating clients who are so demanding and difficult that they constantly hassle, exasperate and push you – but you find that actually, when you do your very best to change for them, you actually develop and get better and your other clients benefit also. Sounds like another reason to tolerate the life partner who pushes you to be a better person.

Anyway, I digress by perhaps trying to stretch my analogy too far. You shouldn’t do stuff to lose your clients in the first place. But it’s interesting that in business, after a “bad” relationship or when lured away by empty and loss leading) promises, we often go back to the relationship we’d previously been happy with before we were “woo’d” away with sweet charms. But in our personal lives we go from one bad “provider” to another without returning to the one that originally suited us just fine.

Perhaps a case of taking stock of and sorting out the present relationship than believing that true admiration “is in his pitch”!

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