If you’ve even remotely kept up with the political discourse that defines Washington, DC these days, you’ve heard of the “Fiscal cliff” – the popular shorthand term used to describe the conundrum that the U.S. government will face at the end of this year, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect. Among the laws set to change at midnight on December 31, are the end of temporary payroll tax cuts, the end of certain tax breaks for businesses, shifts in the alternative minimum tax that would take a larger bite, the end of the tax cuts from 2001-2003, and the beginning of taxes related to Obamacare. At the same time, the spending cuts agreed upon, as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will begin to go into effect. According to Barron’s, over 1,000 government programs – including the defense budget and Medicare are in line for “deep, automatic cuts.”

Here are my questions of you: do you have some relationships that are headed for the fiscal cliff? Business relationships others began that you’ve benefited from that are coming to an end, or up for renewal? Business relationships that you may have neglected in 2012 and yet desperately need to personally and professionally grow in 2013? Business relationships that are painful to deal with throughout the year, yet critical to you or your organization making its growth goals or objectives?

In dealing with the relationship fiscal cliff, those who are stewards of the organization have a choice among three options:

  1. They can cut the relationships that are unproductive, unprofitable, and are not going to help individuals, their teams, or the organization grow, and risk facing a decline in overall performance.
  2. They can maintain some of those painful relationships, but really focus on stronger relationship development and nurturing practices to gain net new relationships; good chance this team is headed for flat growth.
  3. They can change the organization’s performance expectations, metrics, and compensation, and realign expectations only with the most valuable relationships. They can reorient their organizational structure with key customer segments and lifecycle, and focus on managed, smart, growth.

The last option will be the most painful in the short-term, but dramatically more profitable, productive, and performance-centric in the medium- and long-term. The question is are you, or your leaders ready, willing, and able to make the most difficult decisions when it comes to your business relationships?

You or your business may not be facing the relationship fiscal cliff, but to grow in 2013 and beyond, you do have to make more intentional and strategic decisions about the relationships you choose to invest in.

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