Business boundaries: Are you too available?
Is there any such thing as being “too available” to your customers? Surely if we want our soloist businesses to thrive we need to be available for our clients whenever they need/want us? Or do we need to set business boundaries?
I have a cleaner, a wonderful cleaner who turns up on time every 2 weeks to give my house a better clean than I ever do. It dawned on me one Thursday that the Easter weekend was approaching and that our fortnightly clean was actually due on Easter Monday. Of course I did not expect our cleaner to work on a public holiday and was surprised that he had not discussed rescheduling with me.
When I phoned to discuss rescheduling he was amazed – ‘I have 6 other clients that day and none of them have offered to cancel’. I suggested that perhaps he should have just contacted us ahead of time to say as it was a public holiday we would need to reschedule that week. “Oh no, if my customers want me to clean then I will clean”.
I then discovered that the previous Christmas he had only taken Christmas Day as a holiday! I assured him that his clients would all be quite capable of cleaning their own houses for a few weeks over Christmas and that it was really OK for him to take time off. He did not need to be available to us 365 day a year.
So what is this really about?
- Fear of losing customers if you are not available when they want you?
- Discomfort in setting business boundaries?
- Wanting to please your customers?
When I started as a soloist I would coach at night and weekends because I believed that nobody would be able to have their coaching sessions during the day, Monday to Friday. I had a lot of clients during this time so I felt my choice was “right”; however, it had a large impact on the time I had available for my husband.
One day someone wise offered me a different perspective that changed my approach from that day onwards:
If you ring to make an appointment with your Doctor for Wednesday 1pm and the receptionist says ‘I’m sorry but the only available time is 10am’ you have a choice. Make whatever changes to your schedule needed to be available at 10am or ask which day (if at all) he is available at 1pm.
"Be clear with yourself about when you are available and when you are not."
From that point onwards I set some business boundaries and I stopped coaching on weekends and only offered 1 night a week for coaching sessions with only 3 times available. Guess what? I didn’t lose any clients and I regained some balance in my life!
Want more articles like this? Check out the work life balance section.
If a new client contacted me who couldn’t be available when I was I would refer them onto another coach, resisting the temptation to become available at times that really didn’t support the balance of my life.
Now I have a young baby so I never work nights and only have 2 days a week available for client sessions … business continues to thrive.
As soloists we need to treat ourselves like a Doctor. Be clear with yourself about when you are available and when you are not. Trust that our customers will find a way to work with us during those times. If they can’t then they may take business elsewhere … that is OK … trust that there will be enough customers in the world who CAN work with us.
It can be very challenging to have this level of trust in the beginning. I know that I found it hard to begin with and that I had to be really firm with myself to ensure I maintained my new business boundaries. Are you too available?
What changes could you make that would improve the balance of your business life?
What if you committed to these changes for 3 months to see what happens?