Take Your Foot Off The Gas... How To Trust Your Clients (& Yourself!)

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

I've recently enjoyed the experience of having part of my home decorated (ha!), and had a really interesting conversation with the decorator over a cuppa.

He's built a hugely successful business in property maintenance, & despite the pandemic has been solidly inundated with enquiries - both new & repeat customers - for months now, with no sign of things slowing down any time soon (no this isn't an ad!) So, super successful, thriving business - no worries, right? He should be living the dream - moving into a bigger house, upgrading the car, treating the wife, taking a luxury summer holiday... But he's not doing any of those things because he doesn't have the time to even think about them, let alone spend the money he's making while he's fitting in extra requests most evenings & weekends. He (& his family) are more stressed than when they were worried about where the next mortgage payment was coming from. I asked him what was going on - he's his own boss, he can manage his clients, his workload & his finances - so why was this such a problem? "I'm worried that people won't wait for me" Well that sounds familiar. Despite having built a strong reputation, taking pride in doing excellent work, & the evidence of his success coming in thick & fast with all these bookings, he still didn't have the self-belief that he could keep making it work - he was looking at it like a 'lucky streak' This is something I see in so many companies I've worked with & for over the years - and I totally get it - but I'm going to break down how this mindset actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy AND why it's not necessary in the first place... I waited 3 months for this decorator to have availability to do the work I wanted. I also have a list of 'preferred suppliers' (anyone else have these outside of work?!) who generally have a minimum of a 1 month waiting list for any kind of work. The names all came from recommendations based on the work they've done for someone I know (& trust) and the experience that person had with them being in their home. I've also had a really REALLY bad experience with a decorator in the past, which I don't want to risk again. Why is this relevant? Because I would rather wait twice as long & pay twice the price for the job to be done well & to not feel actually traumatised by the experience. There are so many situations this applies to for most people, when it comes to hiring & buying: - Waiting for work to be done on your home (results you then have to live with) - Waiting for the right candidate to fill the position (who you have to work with every day) - Waiting for delivery of a product from overseas (that you know is going to work) rather than find a cheaper alternative locally - Changing the date of your wedding or event so you can have it in the venue you really want If you have a good relationship with your clients - if they trust you to do a good job & they enjoy working with you, they'll wait for you. It's not worth the risk to them to go somewhere else. If they're the kind of clients you want on your roster (you know, the ones that you're happy to hear from, that you have fun working with, that recommend you to others & that don't question your honest invoices...) - they'll wait for you. So the fear he was feeling that customers would just disappear off the list if he didn't drop everything to squeeze them in over evenings & weekends... is both an assumption that they won't wait and a belief that he's not worth waiting for.

I've always been a fan of the mantra "don't ask, don't get" - but it's easy to overlook the other side of it. As a society, we struggle to ask for help. So when somebody asks you for a favour, it's natural to assume they're asking because they're desperate, or it's an absolute necessity - when in reality, they're more likely asking 'just in case'. If you take one thing away today, I want to invite you to open up those conversations. When someone asks you a favour, remember that there's more to it than just "yes" or "no". Here are some prompts to help you explore the grey space between over-delivering & losing out (from here on known as 'setting boundaries'): - "I'd love to take this on, and I have availability from XXX - how does that work for you?" - "This sounds great, let's discuss timelines that will work for us both, as I have a few other projects on right now?" - "I'm excited to work with you on this but don't have capacity at the moment without working evenings & weekends. If it's urgent I can look at pricing the job with this in mind, otherwise I'll be able to get started around XXX" Now, sure - it can definitely be worthwhile to pull an extra shift now & again to squeeze in another short term project for a quick cash injection - but when there's a constant pressure to meet additional demands that aren't being thought out or negotiated, it becomes a one-way ticket on the burnout train. Where this fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy is where the lack of confidence in your ability to hold on to your clients shows up in over-promising & under-delivering. The more you tell people you can do, the more they'll expect of you. The more they expect of you, the harder it is to keep up - especially when you told them you could do more than you can in the first place. So what happens? Mistakes, delays, complaints... and that reputation that had you so busy in the first place quickly falls to pieces. People will wait (& pay!) for quality & a good experience. Remember - you teach people how to treat you. If you're constantly bending over backwards to 'help people out' (and remember, these are paying clients - not friends in need), you're setting a precedent that they can continue to ask for your evenings & weekends because you'll do it for them. But by setting your boundaries early on, managing expectations & delivering on your promises, the negotiations become so much easier & you'll quickly build up the evidence that they WILL wait for you - but action breeds confidence, you have to make the first move. Once you get on that hamster wheel, it's pretty damn hard to jump off it - but it can be done! If you're interested in getting support to build up your confidence to create a strategy for setting boundaries & managing expectations with your clients, then check out the various ways you can work with me (subject to availability...😉) here

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