Does your business require a lot of customer interaction? 

For example, a consultancy or coaching business. Well just about any service based business really. As someone who has run several service based businesses in my time, I have come up against some issues, multiple times, that could have been easily avoided by enforcing strict boundaries. 

Learn from my mistakes

I have had customers call me in the middle of the night, I’ve had customers demand my attention on my days off, and I have had customers ring me over and over and over again whilst I was getting my children ready for school.

For a time, far longer than I’d like to admit, I facilitated such behaviour by answering those calls and being on hand to answer their questions, calm them down and deal with their issue, whatever it might be. One day, though, I decided that I was not going to do that anymore.

Enough was enough, it was time to implement some boundaries

For a couple of reasons. One, my business was supposed to provide me with freedom. It wasn’t supposed to make me be at the beck and call of somebody else. Two, those customers that demanded my attention and couldn’t possibly wait until a reasonable time, couldn’t possibly wait for me to get back to them, and so on, outside of those moments ended up being really difficult customers. Customers that actually in the long run, didn’t really serve me and my business, all that well. 

The business-client relationship is supposed to be mutually beneficial

What do I mean by that? As we all know as business owners, we are here to serve our customers, not the other way around. Or we’re told, but that’s not the case. Our customers are here to serve our business just like we’re here to serve them. 

They are here to serve our business with the work that we need to do. And the money we need in return. That work in itself has to be fulfilling, and the money has to be worthwhile. When you get a customer that demands your attention every hour under the sun and then some, they also tend to be the same people who will quibble over price. They don’t just say, “Alright, here’s your money”, every month. They will try and negotiate a deal. 

You are not here to be haggled, boundaries prevent that from happening

This isn’t eBay, it’s not an auction. The price is the price, pay the money or piss off. It’s really that simple. But nonetheless, these people are the very same people that will try and negotiate with you. Even though they know the price, they will try and negotiate with you. “Oh well I want to pay you less”. They want to pay you less, yet they want you to do more work. 

Now somebody please by all means jump in the comments and let me know that I’m insane. When somebody explains to me how that is logical, because if you can come up with a reasonable explanation why that is even remotely okay then, maybe, just maybe, I might even listen, and consider it, but unlikely. 

There is nobody in this world that gets to determine what time I start work, there was nobody in this world that is more important than me getting my kids ready for school, and there is nobody in this world who is entitled to wake me up in the middle of the night and expect me to be at their beck and call. There is not one single person in the world that has that entitlement. Not one. Just like I am not entitled to ring them in the middle of the night, to interrupt them while they’re getting their kids ready for school, to bother them on their days off, and so on. 

Boundaries are important. 

When you start enforcing those boundaries, when you all of a sudden go from no boundaries to, here’s the line so don’t cross it, it can become problematic for your customers. 

99% of your customers will be absolutely fine with it, but then those people probably weren’t ringing you in the middle of the night, hounding you first thing in the morning, and so on. 

Those customers that have an issue with it, with the boundaries you are putting in place. They have a choice. They have a choice between accepting it or jogging on. To accept the rules as they are, the boundaries, or get lost. 

It is simple and the benefits are clear

It’s not complex. It’s not complicated or difficult, it’s not some sort of enigma. It really is very simple. When you enforce strict boundaries, and you do so from the get go. People respect that. They don’t question it, they’re fine. The moment you let up on those boundaries, the moment you allow someone to step over that line, then it becomes a negotiation, everything becomes a negotiation. “Oh, but you did on this day”, “You didn’t mind me calling you at this time on that day”, and so on. 

So if you enforce those boundaries from the get go, you don’t have those problems. However, if you’re reading this, it’s quite likely that you have already not been enforcing those boundaries. So how do you deal with the negotiation? If you have contracts in place, which by the way you should, then hopefully you will already have in your contract the terms, the boundaries as it were, and you just need to remind them of that contract.

Contracts are an essential part of any professional operation

If, however, it’s not in the contract, then you need to renegotiate the terms of the contract. By renegotiate what I mean is you give them the choice between bow out (every good contract will have an exit strategy built in) or accept the new rules and sign a new contract. There we’ll be, depending on the terms of your contract, an amount of time, a grace period as it were, that you will be legally obliged to give them, and that’s fine. But outside of that, they can sod off. 

Those people are nothing but a pain in the ass. If they’re not willing to sign that new contract. A contract that still makes sure they get the same value from you, That still makes sure that you do the work, and so on, but just with appropriate contact times and so on. If they are not willing to sign that contract, then they are not worth keeping. 

You need to consider longevity in the game, boundaries are how you do that

I know you need the money, I understand that, but the more stress you experience the shorter your shelf life is. The less good you’re able to do with your other customers, the more detrimental it is to your quality of work. 

If they are not willing to be reasonable, then they’re not people that you want and you need to get rid of them anyway because they are taking advantage of you and you are not here to be taken advantage of.

Nobody owns you, take back ownership of your life

You are here to provide a service. And you do so, very well. You are not here to be abused by these people. They are paying for a service they don’t own you. They’re not your employer, they’re not your God (If you believe in such things), they are just a person that pays for a service, and nothing more. So stop giving them that ‘more’, stop allowing them to take over your life, and stop allowing them ownership of you and your very being.

Make your boundaries clear, make your boundaries decisive, and make sure that you enforce them. Then people will respect them and when you start enforcing those boundaries properly the quality of your work will improve because you will have more energy and less worry. You will be less stressed, and you’ll be able to do a better job, So everybody wins. So start enforcing those boundaries today.

Finding the strength to take a stand requires a good measure of self awareness

Implementing boundaries can be quite intimidating, especially when you feed yourself the narrative that your business requires you to be permanently on hand to deal with your clients. Taking some time for deep thought can really help you to identify and overcome your mindset around boundaries.

I have previously written about self awareness, which you can find here 

If you would like to have a chat with me about it then I’d be more than happy to book you in for a 1 to 1 session in which we can work on it. If that’s more your speed then drop me a message on my company website 

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