Managing the end of a business relationship

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Lee Horlock

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Lee is a senior technical officer focused on management systems certification, ensuring that our certification services are fit for purpose.

COVID-19 has brought challenges to businesses the world over. Lee Horlock at BM TRADA discusses how working together will help us through the crisis.

Over a series of blogs Lee explains the process and benefits of collaborative working and ISO 44001 certification.

Collaborative relationships - the exit strategy 

In the final of a series of four blogs on collaborative working, Lee explains why an exit strategy is a crucial part of the collaboration process.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to start a collaboration by planning the dissolution of the partnership, an exit strategy is extremely important for collaborative relationships. It should form part of the process from the very beginning, with specific triggers agreed for starting a ‘controlled disengagement’ if the need arises.

Rather than setting the arrangement up with an expectation to fail, incorporating an exit strategy from the outset actually builds confidence between partners. The exit strategy sets boundaries for the collaboration, demonstrating an understanding of what can and cannot be done as part of the relationship, and identifying what is acceptable and unacceptable. It is also an opportunity to recognize any potential conflict which could arise over the course of the relationship.

The name of this part of the process may sound negative, but an exit strategy does not necessarily need to be the end of a relationship; it might just be the end of a project and identifying opportunities for future collaboration, or simply the natural conclusion to a set arrangement.

A good exit strategy sets out plans based on ‘what ifs’, giving boundaries and focus and agreeing appropriate performance levels to evaluate against. As I touched on in my previous post on this topic, the collaborative relationship should be continuously monitored and evaluated against the initial shared objectives. If the relationship is not being properly maintained; the performance agreement is not being met or objectives are not being achieved, then this needs to be rectified immediately, otherwise the exit strategy should be triggered.

Key to a collaborative relationship is mutual objectives and added value. If the expected value is not being achieved and the objectives are no longer aligned, the relationship should either be changed or should not continue further.

If an exit strategy is in place, this makes the process much clearer and less messy. Each party understands their end of the bargain in the relationship, so if it is determined that one or all parties are not achieving what they agreed, everyone understands the consequences. There is then a formal process in place to neatly end the relationship, while ensuring business continuity and customer support. Effective disengagement is crucial not just for the amicable ending of the collaboration, but also to protect the internal and external reputation of all parties.

The exit strategy is a major part of ISO 44001 certification; helping to develop and execute this strategy to ensure that whatever the outcome, the conclusion of the relationship is a positive one. It provides a neutral platform, acting as a bridge between organisations to remove any uncertainty.

Increasingly, collaboration is becoming a necessity rather than an option, and the last few months have demonstrated this to dramatic effect. Organisations should be reviewing their collaborative strategy on a regular basis, and I suspect that as we enter our strange new world on the other side of this global pandemic, working together will be more important than ever before.

If you have any questions about ISO 44001, including more detail on the certification process, please get in touch. We can also offer advice on many other management systems, including ISO 9001, ISO 27001, ISO 45001 and ISO 50001.

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