The Right Ways to Wind Down Work

Katie Fleming

Katie Fleming

Co-founder and COO of Owner Actions

A business owner sitting at a desk looks into the distance thinking about the right ways to wind down work

Before telling your customers about your decision to close, think about how you’ll fulfill your outstanding orders, whether you’ll accept any new orders, and the date by which you’ll need to wrap up operations.

In this short guide, we’ll walk you through the key steps you need to take.


Where should I start?

Take a look at the orders you received before announcing your closure. Which of them can you fulfill before your business closes its doors? Which will be improbable or impossible?

You’ll need to weigh a number of factors to make these calls. Here are three that should be front of mind:

  1. The length of time your remaining employees are staying on
  2. The supplies and inventory you have on hand
  3. The amount of time it’ll take to complete each request


Those factors will help you think through the logistics of completing your outstanding orders.

Your contractual obligations should weigh in, too. If you’ve provided a contract to complete services, your business could face some serious ramifications for breaking that commitment.

With all this in mind, you set some priorities. If possible, plan to complete the orders that are achievable and profitable for your business, as well as those that have strict penalties for non-performance.


What should I do about the orders I can’t fulfill?

It depends on whether you have a contract in place to provide those goods or services.

If you break a contractual obligation, you could be charged a cancellation fee or, worse, face a lawsuit for non-performance. Fortunately, in some cases, these outcomes can be avoided. Here’s how:

  • Because your business is closing, you may be to negotiate an early termination of your contract.
  • If termination isn’t possible, you might be able to agree to a resolution that’s favorable to both you and your customer. Depending on the product or service you provide, this could include a full refund, connecting the customer to a provider who can provide expedited service, or settling for a portion of the penalty you owe.


Contact each affected customer individually and try to find a path forward.

If you have outstanding orders that aren’t part of a contract, the process is simpler. You should be able to cancel the order and refund your customer’s money.

In either circumstance, keep these practices in mind:

  • Be gracious.
  • Be apologetic about the inconvenience the closure may cause.
  • Try to soften the blow by offering to refer the customer to another vendor who can provide similar goods or services to those you offered.



If you plan to refer customers elsewhere, try turning the situation into a win for your business. Here’s how.


Reach out to one of your competitors and gauge their interest in buying your customer list, as well as your website, domain name, and phone numbers (which can be redirected to that business’s own site and dedicated phone line). These items may be very valuable to others in your industry. If an arrangement is reached, you can allow the competitor to take over any new orders.


Learn more about selling your business’s assets here.




What about new orders?

You can decide whether you’d like to continue accepting orders up to the official close date of your business. If the orders are simple and you have the inventory, means, and time to complete them, you are free to decide whether to accept them as you wind down your work.

If you’d prefer to stop accepting orders as you wind down work, you should close your online storefronts and any digital means that customers have to purchase from your business. Refer customers who call or email you to other vendors, and thank them for considering your business.


What’s next?

Next, you’ll need to submit invoices for any outstanding obligations your customers owe. In our guide, Strategies to Collect the Money Your Business Is Owed Before Closing Your Doors, you can learn some of the strategies that make this cumbersome task more manageable.


Log into your owner’s portal for articles and advice that’ll help you complete the actions that are required to fully dissolve your business.

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