Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Mary was happily building her business. She was doing the hard work to get the word out there to her customers, service existing customers and really building for the future. One day she was introduced to Joe. Joe had a similar but non-competing business. They had many of the same contacts and experiences. Next thing you know Mary and Joe we’re doing more and more together to build their businesses.

Joe had a lot of great input for Mary. After all, because their businesses were similar but not competing, they were seeing similar things. And Mary and Joe were able to look over each other’s shoulders and provide helpful advice. They helped each other grow their businesses, make strategic contacts and just generally were there for each other for those day-to-day challenges in their respective businesses.

After awhile Joe started acting strange. Every once in a while Mary would notice that Joe had embellished some statement. Maybe Joe put himself in a little better light in a situation than what wasn’t reality. Sometimes Joe would say something about interaction with one of their mutual friends and it just didn’t make sense to Mary based on her knowledge of both people. Usually Mary just gave it a pass because she had such a good relationship with Joe.

Until one day Mary was talking to one of her customers. There she found out that Joe had actually told the customer negative things about her behind her back. It wasn’t the things Joe said were untrue, it was that they were the types of things that Mary would have liked to keep between herself and Joe and not expose to her customer. You know problems with employees, discussions she was having with her other business partners and just generally details of the business that you generally don’t tell your customers.

And as time went on Mary would notice more and more of these issues with Joe. But Joe stayed close to her and was a loyal friend. He was still giving her good input and advice on her business and really looking out for her, at least it seemed on a surface.

And then one day it happened. Mary lost a big contract. She worked to track down the “why” and it became clear that it was because Joe had poisoned the well with that customer. Whether intentional or unintentional Joe had said some bad things about Mary. The old loose lips sinking ships.

She then approached Joe. Joe went into the denial mode. Mary had collected proof that Joe had indeed made the statements causing Mary to lose the customer. Many of Joe’s statements were untrue.. Next thing you know Joe would not return the phone calls of Mary.

Joe was gone as a business partner and a friend. Mary was hurt. Her business suffered. And what was a multi-year friendship with Joe was suddenly gone.

Mary realized she has been lied to yet again in business.

That sinking feeling hit. It’s happened again. You’ve been lied to.

I am a huge fan of partnerships and building businesses together where there is synergy. I think we can usually do more together than we can alone. But it doesn’t make all of our partners good people. And some will be users.

No matter how you’ve been lied to in business I’ve wrote this article to help find steps forward.

Let’s discuss some tips for you when you find you are doing business with liars.

1. Give Yourself Peace

First, don’t blame yourself for having done business with a liar. Lots of people have been caught up in doing business with people who lie. It’s one of the reasons we have so many safeguards in business. There are a lot of liars out there. It’s no reflection on you that you trusted somebody who turned out to be a liar.

Unfortunately, the weak often come after the strong to steal resources and bolster their efforts of deception. So you need to realize that it’s not your fault that somebody lied to you. The fact that you were doing well might well have been why you were a target.

Add to this the fact that many of the liars are quite sophisticated. If you look at the history of people who lie in business they often go to great efforts to cover their tracks so they are not detected. So it’s simply not your fault that you’ve done business with a liar. Start with that comfort and peace that this is not your fault to allow this to pass.

2. Assess the Situation

After you’ve given yourself peace for your accidental encounter with the liar the next key is to assess the situation. Where are you both with respect to the liar and with the overall business? Where are you sitting right now and how integrated are we with the liar in terms of work flow and reputation? Where are you financially and what is your ability to react as a business?

It’s time to do a full assessment of where we are because this is going to determine our options and next steps. We need to think about where we want to head from this moment and how we want to make the best of the situation.

What connections does the liar have with us and our network? How hard will it be for us to separate? Can we just expel this person and hire replacement help to unsort the mess? Or are we in a situation where things are a little more challenging?

Its key that we understand where we are and how a liar is connected with our business.

3. End the Reliance

After we assess where we are and what the situation is we need to end our reliance on the liar. This may be easier or more difficult depending on how many tentacles they’ve gotten into your business. It almost goes without saying that you’re going to have mutual contacts and connections and you’re going to have to look at those relationships.

You also may be relying on the liar to work with you on certain projects, develop future business or in some other coordinated ways. Now that you know the other person is a liar and they expose themselves you’re certain you don’t want to do business with them. (It’s a huge mistake to continue business with a liar, even if they apologize, because they’ll burn you again.)

So now we need to build a plan to end the reliance. How can we separate ways, hopefully saving our face along the way,  with minimal impact to third parties (particularly customers)? We need to start thinking about house to separate projects and relationships in such a way that we can each go our own directions.

Over time you want to be completely disconnected from the liar.

4. Look Out for Yourself

It goes without saying that in this process that you need to look out for yourself. You’ve been lied to and hurt by your business associate. And now you need to look at how you will protect yourself and rebuild yourself.

This is an okay time to be selfish. You need to look for your interests in your business and what the future looks like. How do you protect the business and its future? The liar is no longer relevant to how you plan. You need to make sure that you are protecting you, your family, your employees and your broader stakeholders.

5. Build the Exit Plan

Now that you have a grounding of who you are and where you are headed, you want to come up with detailed plans that move you to less and less interaction with the liar. Eventually you will not be relying on them for anything in your business.

This exit plan may involve reaching out to third parties, modifying contracts, and otherwise adjusting relationships. You may need to rebrand and reorganize projects to end your association with the liar.

The key here is to sit down and build the plan. Figure out how all the pieces are going to have to move. Think about all the separation needs to be happening and in what order.

As with any plan you’ll need to prioritize. Which items are most critical to do sooner and which can be done later? As a general rule when you’re exiting relationships the first key is to limit communication and to start separating your brands. Allow others to see that you’re no longer are associated with the liar.

Over time you’ll drill down and figure out step by step what order to do things in. But the key is to start building a plan for exit and separation with one another.

6. Watch Out Yourself on Exit

Odds are you had significant investment in yourself and your efforts with the liar. As you’re exiting it may be tricky. You may encounter situations where you have to determine whether to retain past work from combined efforts with the liar or lose them in the process.

While It’s tricky to separate work, I encourage you to think about yourself in those situations. For each item try to take an unemotional look at whether the past effort is worth the trouble of working through the separation process to figure out a path forward to save the work. Sometimes it is. You may have built something of great value with the liar that you don’t want to completely flush away. In those cases you’re going to have to negotiate how that exit looks.

In other cases you may find the process of working with the liar is not worth the value of the work that will be saved. In those cases you can simply walk away.

The key here is I want you thinking about yourself throughout the exit. Make sure you prioritize yourself over the liar. After all, you were the innocent party who did the right thing. And you deserve the fruits of your past efforts. You need to start making rational decisions in a new reality.

The liar has thrown you for a loop by lying to you and disrupting your business. It’s now your job to pick up the pieces and figure out what makes sense and what doesn’t. Make sure you’re always looking out for you in this process.

7. Build Your Defenses

After separating from the liar and covering the damages to your business, you also need to think about the future. Here’s what you need to build your defenses. As mentioned earlier this is not about blaming yourself.

However, I don’t want you to go through the cycle again. It’s time to take an assessment of why and the how the liar got into your world. How did they get there? How did they stay?

What rules and processes can you put in place will make it harder for a future liar to get to you?  How can you evaluate people sooner? How can you note the early lies rather than the big lies that hurts so much later?

Take some time for some lessons learned and think about how to build your defenses said the liar doesn’t get to you again.


It’s no fun to have done business with a liar. If you ask anybody we’ve all been through the process. Almost everybody has dealt with a liar at some point in their business career.

What really determines your future is how you deal with it.

I have worked with a lot of Partnerships in my career and I’ve laid out a framework that will help you move forward. The key is to take your breath and take it one step at a time. If you follow the steps in this article I think you’ll find that you’re in a stronger place to move away from your partner faster.

Good luck! I know what you’re going through is not fun. I’ve been there.

By: The Our Shawn McBride who is constantly studying the Future of Business as the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.

[NOTE: Mary and Joe are not actual people but a story from similar experiences of hundreds of partners.]

Do you really want to make plans that work?

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