I’ve had many conversations with business owners recently regarding the stress their clients are infusing into their lives.
At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, in each situation I’ve suggested that they’ve allowed these conditions to occur.
In both our personal and professional lives, we operate within a framework of “unconscious acceptance.” We communicate to the world what we will and will not tolerate from others. People will only treat us as poorly as we allow.
With our business, here are the 2 steps we must take to set healthy boundaries, which will benefit both us and our clients.
- Define your “avatar.” What is the detailed profile of your ideal client? It’s important to get as specific as possible regarding industry, age, demographic, their specific need, their preference of low-cost versus high-value, etc.
- Define what you personally require to work with a client. Do you want to avoid travel? Do you require specific payment arrangements? What is your ideal work arrangement? For me, my two most important criteria are:
– Do I like them? I’m going to be investing my valuable time in helping them achieve success. We will be spending a lot of time together. It’s my personal rule to really like everyone I spend time with, and to believe in their business model.- Are they coachable? Many of the prospects that contact me want to work with me, but after further exploration, are not willing or able to do the work to make difficult changes. They may be reluctant to evaluate their executive team to determine if they have the right people in the right seats, or analyze their client base to determine if they should move upmarket.
Even if I like them and believe in their businesses, and I can clearly envision a path to growth, if they are resisting change I can’t help them. People must want growth & progress for themselves more than we want it for them.
I have additional criteria for specific situations. For example, many partners contact me to help them with their partnership. I greatly enjoy working with healthy partnerships to clearly define roles and build growth strategies. However, I am not a marriage therapist. I’m not interested in playing the role of a conflict mediator when partners are fighting.
No is a Complete Sentence.
When a prospect doesn’t align with your criteria, say No. When we say no to the good, we make room for the great.
Remember that we all have a limited amount of time & energy to devote to clients. We can’t say yes to everyone. Ideally we reserve our Yes for those that share our values systems, and where we can make a transformational impact without infusing a lot of stress into our lives.
When saying no, be quick and be honest. Integrity must always drive our communication and engagement. It also keeps the door open for future collaboration.
Setting Boundaries with Existing Clients. It’s also important to set boundaries with existing clients. While we want to make sure our clients are happy, we also must protect our time and energy. It’s OK to set boundaries while on vacation, to limit phone calls to a certain part of the day, or to rein in a scope that seems to be going beyond what we agreed.
Requests to Pick Your Brain.
I receive dozens of breakfast, coffee, and lunch invitations from well-meaning business owners and executives who want to pick my brain for guidance. I decline most of them because:
- We must be protective of our time, and place our paying clients first.
- It’s disrespectful and unethical to my paying clients to give away my services for free.
- One 60-minute conversation will be a band-aid to a larger problem. One-off conversations don’t align with my objective of creating a transformational impact.
I do appreciate the courage and trust to reach out for help, and I always acknowledge and honor this.
Therefore, I offer a 15-minute Skype session option to address one need, as long as they provide me goals/objectives for our 15 minutes together. Within that time, I can direct the conversation to determine if it benefits both of us to have a second conversation.
Boundaries help us to preserve our energy sources so that we can perform at 100% in the most synergistic situations. Take ownership for your client engagement experience. By raising your level of unconscious acceptance, you create opportunities to serve your most ideal clients at your highest level of performance.
Wishing you success in aligning with your most ideal clients as you move to the next level.