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Healthy Boundaries in Your Work

Set Up Boundaries for your business to create a win-win situation

The customer is always right. Hmmm, is that true?

Before you quit reading, hear me out.  Despite all we have been told, a business can’t give every customer everything they want.  It’s just not possible.  This is not true customer satisfaction.  Rather it means that customer’s reasonable needs are met at the same time the business thrives; a true win-win.   

For this synchronized dance to happen, healthy boundaries have to be established and stuck to. 

But what are healthy boundaries and how does one decide what they are?

Boundaries are those “lines in the sand” that are drawn so that one does not feel over extended and uncomfortable, freeing them up to do their best work.  They can be large or small. 

Large businesses set up many of their boundaries clearly.  They determine the times that they are open and what they charge for their products and services.  They choose their payment polices and even what one must wear to come into their building.  These examples are determined by the company and if you want their service you are expected to work within their boundaries. 

In most instances these boundaries are created so the company can meet most people’s needs, streamline how they work, offer consistent service to all customers and operate most efficiently.  Pretty good reasons.   

But what if you are a small business or the Solopreneur (a one-person business)?  Do you still need stringent boundaries?  Yesiree

It’s common for small businesses to feel that they have to meet all of their customer’s needs.  Why?  I’ve found that the root of this desire is largely fear.  Small businesses are willing to work in unreasonable ways to please the customer because they fear what will happen if they don’t.  (More discussion of these fears in my next article.) 

How do you determine your boundaries? 

First, begin by creating a description of how YOU want to work.  Be careful you are not asking yourself what the customer will want from you.   

To prime the pump, answer the questions below.   

When do I choose to be available to my clients?  Everyday between 9:00 – 5:00?  Holidays?  Weekends?  3:00 AM in the morning?

How do I want to be available?  By phone, by cell phone, e-mail?  What is the best way to reach me?

How and when do I want to be paid?  Within 5 days of the services being completed?  Receiving a 50% deposit and the remainder paid upon delivery?  Whenever the client gets around to it?  Never?

What do I want to charge?  What my competition charges?  Higher?  Lower?  By the hour?  Lump sum?

What products and services will I provide?  This will vary depending on your business.  A graphic artist may determine that their price includes three of the product.  A chiropractor may determine that their sessions last 45 minutes.  A small craft shop may only provide locally made products.  Remember, this is your business. 

Still more questions are “How do I want to be treated?” and “What do I want my interaction with clients to feel like?

Once you do this, you will have also created a list of your boundaries.   

The next step is to know why each answer above is important to you.  Perhaps you don’t want to be called after 5:30 PM because that is highly valuable family time. Or you want a deposit on your work because you have found that clients who pay up front value your service more.  Get the picture?   

Aiming for customers to be satisfied is important.  So is working within a set of reasonable boundaries that keeps you and your business in tip-top shape.  It truly can be a beautiful dance. 

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