Putting “Landlord” and “Heartwarming” in the same phrase may seem farfetched to some. The truth is, landlords’ hearts freeze over only when tenants demonstrate a lack of understanding or respect for the contract they both signed. When a tenant shows proper respect for the contract, the landlord can be their best friend.
I have a client who came to me recently in a panic. In spite of their best efforts (including a significant investment in marketing), the business had yet to gain traction and they were burning through their reserves. (How much financial reserve is enough for a retail service business? That is a topic for another post.)
They were mortified about contacting the landlord but they needed some rent relief. I sat down with them and we talked. I listened to their story and told it back to them in a way that the landlord could sympathize with: They designed and built a beautiful space. They wisely earmarked substantial funds for marketing at the outset of the business. They engaged a top-notch public relations company to help generate buzz and get press coverage. The problem was, they didn’t get the desired results. And this brought us to the present moment, my client feeling embarrassed, a failure, and desperate.
All great successes in business have setbacks and travails along the way, I reminded them. Stuff down your despair and dig deep for some resilience and optimism.
So I extended the story into the future. If you could get some rent relief from the landlord, what would you use that money for? Would you hire another marketing firm or perhaps a consultant? And what would be the intended result of that investment? This gave the story a (potentially) happy ending.
We co-wrote an email to the landlord telling the story of a tenant who started with a plan and funds to execute that plan. With the landlord’s help, they would rev up the marketing engine again and get the traction that eluded them the first go round. And they provided a timeline for paying the landlord back the abated rent.
The tenant called me the day after the email was sent, ecstatic. The landlord said “yes”. She couldn’t believe it. I could.