I had an interesting conversation the other day with a manager of a classic car dealership in San Francisco, California- he called to tell me that he loved what I did with his local rival Specialty Sales Classics and he would like for me to take over some of his Internet Marketing as well.

This put me in somewhat of an awkward situation since I’ve worked with Specialty Sales for many years now and they treat me like family.  Should I accept the new client or not?

On one hand, the new classic car dealership has a much larger online marketing budget and they did not ask for me to drop my current client.  It would equate to an extra $3000 a month in my pocket with work that I absolutely love doing- after all, who doesn’t like writing about cars like a tricked-out 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback that produces over 500 horsepower at the wheels?

Okay, so maybe I’m a little bit of classic car nerd, but it’s my little slice of heaven and I’m not ashamed of it.  Besides, we do not see too many fully restored, top shelf classics here in Spartanburg, South Carolina…so I take my doses of awesome wherever I can get them.

Here’s the problem though.  If I accept this new client, then I am directly competing with the dealership I’ve grown to respect over the past five years.  Maybe it would be different if it was a classic dealer in New York, Atlanta or Texas, but this new client wants to hire me specifically to steal business from the people who have put food on my table for some time now.  And at the end of the day, I’m not sure I can live with that.

The real kicker is that Specialty Sales wouldn’t even have to know about this new relationship, so I could literally take on this new client on the “down-low” and never have to think twice about it.  After all, I never signed any type of non-compete and I have a right to earn a great living just like everyone else, right?

Wrong.

If you’ve learned anything from my marketing blog over the past year, I’ve told you time and time again that nothing on Earth is more important than the relationship you build with your customers.  I wouldn’t sell out Specialty Sales for $3,000 a month or even $30,000, simply because I gave my word that their best interests will always trump mine.  And if you don’t have that philosophy in place with your business, then you’ll likely learn the hard way that clients are very unforgiving when it comes to betrayal.

Now, I realize that I could simply drop my long-standing client and take on the new dealership, but that doesn’t work for me either.  Loyalty in business is rare these days and I know for a fact if I ever have an issue with Specialty Sales, I can reach out to the General Manager and he will bend over backwards to take care of me.  And you know what?  That’s worth a heck of a lot more than money in my book and I would never do anything to betray that.

Who’s to say that the new account would become a long-term venture anyway?  It’s simply not worth ruining a great working relationship over.

And I’m sure that some of you will say, “Where’s your entrepreneurial spirit?  You can’t run an online marketing firm by turning down ideal clients.”  Yes I can…I do it every single day.  And let me tell you a little secret- that’s why I never seem to lose clients.  Every single business I work with is just as loyal to me as I am to them, and it’s why my work calendar stays booked for months in advance.

So while you should definitely be in business to make as much profit as possible, just remember that there’s a fine line in the sand between being ambitions and disloyal.  Always place your customer’s specific needs first, bend over backwards to make them successful, and build genuine relationships that you’re fully invested in.  That’s the only way to have an amazing client list that keeps you smiling every day.

Maybe I’m an idiot though for turning down easy business- tell me what you think.  Would you have handled this situation differently?  Leave your comments below.