Only Idiots Burn Bridges

Last week we witnessed an idiot burn down a bridge. Fire department investigators reported the bridge beyond repair.

“It will take a significant amount of work to rebuild this bridge!” said the Chief Fire Inspector. “That’s OK inspector” said a bystander, “No sense rebuilding that one, it’s going to be easier and faster to build a new one somewhere else.

“Let the ruin be visible to the world as a lesson to be learned” said another.

We’ve seen idiots burn bridges over the years and the results are always the same. An insurance brokerage participates in a competitive Request For Proposal, fails to get the business, and sues the prospective client for redress, real or imagined. A TPA offers a first year client a dual renewal, one with the broker and one without. A vendor unilaterally terminates a contract mid-year without cause. 

Burning bridges is unnecessary and counter productive. Instead, the best prospects should be, and are, the ones you’ve lost. Losing business is something everyone experiences in sales. It’s how one deals with it that defines character. 

Burning and Building Bridges


There is problem with burning bridges behind you.

It’s easy to become frustrated and react by giving someone a piece of your mind. When relationships are challenging, sometimes the easiest answer looks like blowing up the relationship and burning the bridges behind you.

You can burn down bridges in your personal relationships, your work relationships, and even your sales relationships. In the heat of the moment you can overreact and go to far. You can also act exactly as you wish in that moment, burning down the bridges and completely leveling the relationship. The person (or people) that were on the other side of that bridge can no longer reach you (as if they would want to).

The problem with burning bridges behind you is that to get back across you have to build a new bridge.

Building a new bridge requires an enormous effort. First you have to apologize for burning (or blowing up) the bridge in the first place. The bigger and nastier the explosion you made when burning down that bridge, the more work it’s going to take for your apology to be accepted. Then you have to start making deposits in the relationships so you can brick by brick and step-by-step rebuild the bridge. You have to build the bridge and find your way back across.

But you don’t have to burn down the bridge in the first place. There’s really nothing to be gained. But there’s quite a bit to be lost. You can lose your ability to ever get back across to the other side. It makes more sense not to blow up the bridge in the first place. Instead work on patching up the damaged bridge you already have.