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My Toughest Client

I was starting to believe her.  She had a very persuasive argument for why her way made more sense than mine.  “There are times for flexibility”, she argued.  Tears were in her eyes as she explained she doesn’t ask for much and she has been very good to me.  Then it turned to indignation. She’s never heard of someone being so inflexible.  Others would agree with her.  

She could tell I was wavering and she hopped in my lap like a cat does when it senses the person hates cats. She was my most important client EVER and I needed to keep her happy.  If it went well this relationship would last years. 

She’d chosen her timing well, I was drained of all my give a . . . you know. I really wanted to say “yes”.  “Yes” would shut her up.  “Yes” would save me energy and time.  “Yes” would make me HER HERO.

I said “no”.

She is seven.
She is my daughter.
Our negotiation was about a frozen yogurt before dinner.

One day the fight won’t be about popsicles.  Boundaries prevent burnout.

Boundaries Prevent Burnout One Day The Fight Wont Be About Popsicles

Boundaries Prevent Burnout – At Home and In Business

CeCe reacted pretty much like you would imagine.  There was bargaining, complaining, debating, and finally accepting of defeat. Business owners have this exact same fight every day, not about popsicles but about boundaries.  You might not believe me but I am sure if you can do one you can do the other. If you can say “no” to your child you can do the same in your business. If you are big hearted and feeling burdened or burnt out your problem isn’t your clients, it is your boundaries. It feels different because clients are not guaranteed to love you the next day and that scares some of us.  It scares me.

If you can say “no” to your child you can do the same in your business.  If you are big hearted and feeling burdened or burnt out your problem isn’t your clients, it is your boundaries. 

Teresa S. Porter, Being Big Hearted with Boundaries

If we look at why it was easy for me to say no to CeCe we will unlock the formula for how to get that comfortable saying “no” to clients so that our boundaries prevent burnout. I know not everyone is a parent but if you’ve ever had a roommate, babysat a cousin, or at least watched it on TV, you can do this too.

Why is it so easy for me to say “no” to CeCe?

  1. I’ve had practice.
  2. I am detached from the outcome and her response because I know it is not in my control.
  3. I know what the rules are; she knows what the rules are.
  4. None of the rules are arbitrary.
  5. I have examples to learn from and copy.
  6. I see the big picture of what happens long term.
  7. I want our relationship to be the best possible.
  8. She trusts me.
Boundaries Prevent Burnout If You Can Say No To Your Child You Can Do The Same in Business

How can boundaries prevent burnout?

  1. Practice!  The more you say “no” the easier it gets.  When I was a new business owner figuring out my boundaries was a clumsy process.  I looked forward to the day I wouldn’t be fighting the same battles.  The truth is, the battles are the same I’ve just figured out how to see them coming and handle them.   The battles don’t change, you just get better at fighting them.

2. Detach yourself from what your client will think about you or say about you.  You cannot control other people’s feelings or reactions. I’ll repeat that . . . you cannot control other people’s reactions or emotions no matter how much you may want to. Give in only when it aligns with your values and the values of your business. Being big-hearted doesn’t mean you can never be charitable or make an exception – it means to do it when it aligns with your core values not to avoid feeling bad or having confrontation.

3. Make sure you are clear on what your boundaries and business guidelines are.  If you are solid on what you do and don’t allow your client will be clear too.  When you rarely break your own rules you’ll always remember the occasions and reasons why you did it.  No one will be able to convince you that you said something you didn’t say.  Write your boundaries down.

4. Make sure your boundaries make sense.  Could you have a rule that you only work one day a week?  Absolutely, if you can run a sustainable business that way you could.  Is it likely you will have to explain this boundary over and over again because it’s not typical?  Yes.  If you’ve got business rules that are outside what most people expect, make sure you communicate them otherwise it will feel arbitrary or punitive.

5. Have a professional mentor or industry partner you can turn to to know how to navigate situations you haven’t encountered before.  Facebook groups can be a great place to get general information but make sure not to Frankenstein together a response based on too many opinions.  Stick with trusted experts.

6. See the big picture.  While the moment can feel huge, pull back and look at your problem from a broader view.  Will this matter in a week?  A month?  A year?  You have goals for your business sustainability and growth – does this move you closer to that goal or farther away?  We waiver when we let the voice in front of us be louder than our core truths of what our values are.  

7. Boundaries with your clients build trust. When boundaries are clear you don’t have to worry about what happens next.  Have you ever had a boss that makes you enforce a rule with customers only to give in when it gets passed up to them?  Yeah.  That feeling sucks.  That is what your clients feel when they find out a rule you enforced for them wasn’t enforced for someone else.  

8. Most important! BOUNDARIES PREVENT BURNOUT  Let me say that again, boundaries_prevent_burnout.  If every interaction you have is in flux because your pricing, rules, and way of doing business are always up for debate you’re going to be exhausted. When you allow yourself to be pushed around you are telling your clients that even you don’t believe in your business. When you feel burdened and burnt out it’s a good bet you can turn it around just by establishing new or different boundaries.

When you are exhausted you say “yes” to things you shouldn’t because saying “no” takes energy you don’t have.  This leads to hurt feelings, grudges, and feeling unappreciated.  You will very rarely think “man I am so glad I gave that discount!” or “wow, I didn’t want to make this trade but I totally came out ahead.”  We dream of those situations but they are rare.  What happens instead is you burn out and then you feel resentful.  Burn out hurts relationships.  Burn out kills businesses. You can prevent that from happening by creating boundaries that align with your values and standing by them.

Boundaries Prevent Burnout beach graphic

I know you can do this! You have done hard things before and this is no different. You have the determination and discipline to make your business great and still be a person with a heart. This will help you get back to the parts of your business that you love.

You have turned a kid around and put them back in bed.  You have said “no” to ice cream.  You have made someone set the table or finish their homework.  This is the exact same thing. 

Boundaries prevent burnout. Do it before you have to slam on the breaks and threaten to turn this car around so_help_me_God.

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