We have all probably read an article or heard about setting boundaries; however, have you thought about setting your business boundaries? So many business owners seem to throw boundaries out the window when it comes to their businesses, especially those who provide a service.
A fear we go through is if we are setting boundaries, then we are not going to find clients. Or, if we do set boundaries, we ignore them because of the same fear.
As a business owner, you must set your boundaries with an understanding of what is and is not acceptable in order for you to continue being in business. Especially, if you want to actually enjoy being in business for yourself. If you want to be miserable in your business, you might as well have stayed in your job working for someone else.
The same holds true for your personal boundaries. You must set your personal boundaries with an understanding of what is and is not acceptable for you to continue in a relationship with another individual, whether that is a family member or a friend.
I have been in business for the past thirteen years and in that time I have had to let go of four or five clients based on the boundaries I had set. The main reasons for letting these clients go were because of the boundaries I set about being paid on time and on communication and respect.
What is amazing is by setting boundaries and sticking to them, business did not drop off, it picked up. My business was now open and available to bring in better clients, people who understood and honored boundaries. Not everyone is meant to work together and on occasion both sides will discover they made a mistake when they agreed to work together. Instead of trying to manipulate each individual’s boundaries to fit the other, which rarely works, it is better to part ways and find clients that can work within your boundaries. There is no reason to work in an environment where you and your client are constantly going to feel angry, hurt, or frustrated.
Again, the same is true for your personal relationships. There is no reason to stay in a relationship with family or friends when they are constantly stepping on and breaking boundaries, causing you pain, frustration, and anger. By letting go of these relationships, you open yourself up to have more room to receive from those who will truly love, honor, and respect you, as you do them.
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How do you go about setting boundaries for your business and enforcing them? (Most of these steps can also be applied to your personal relationships.)
- First, decide what you want when working in relationship with your clients. Look at what you want in a general big picture way and then drill down to the details of the big picture.
- Second, determine how you can be flexible with your boundaries when needed. Everything is not black and white. You need to be able to know where you are willing to be flexible and what that looks like, as long as it does not completely cross the line of your boundaries. Of course, there are some boundaries where you will feel you cannot be flexible at all.
- Make sure as clients come on board they know what the “hard” boundaries are and put them into your agreement or contract. These boundaries cover items such as office hours, when you get paid, late fees, and when service is stopped if you are not paid.
- If you are a service provider who works on a long-term retainer basis, there are some boundaries that would not be in your agreement or contract. These would be your “soft” boundaries. These fall well within your personal boundaries of how you want your life to be led. These are boundaries on how conflict will be handled, how communications will be handled, and what type of respect you require in partnership with your client (or in relationship with friends and family). It’s important to go over these with your client before you start your partnership since you both are about to go into a long-term business relationship.
- When clients cross a boundary, or family and friends, remind them of your boundaries and what you need from them. Sometimes people forget or they don’t realize they have stepped over the line, especially when you’re dealing with communications and respect. When it comes to boundaries, everyone’s definition is a little different.
- If the behavior continues, bring it to their attention again. If it continues after a few warnings, then it is time to let the client know if the behavior does not change, you will have to end the partnership. The same goes for family and friends, though you may find you end up giving them a little more leeway.
- Remember, there isn’t a need to debate the boundary issue with anyone. Your boundaries are your boundaries. They are what you have set for your business. Give your client a 30 to 60 day notice or whatever you feel comfortable with, and stop the partnership before it gives you ulcers.
Knowing your boundaries, setting them for your business, and sticking to them, will allow you the enjoyment of being in business. Write at least five firm boundaries for your business and five firm boundaries for your personal life. Post these somewhere on your desk, so you can see them every day. If they are “hard” boundaries, incorporate them into your agreement or contract. If they are “soft” boundaries, read them every day to ingrain them into your psyche.
Learn to say with full confidence, “This is my business. These are the boundaries for my business and for working with my clients.” “This is my life. These are the boundaries for my life and for being in relationship with my family and friends.”