4 Ways to Gracefully Set Boundaries In Your Business

As your business grows, and your client and customer base increases, you'll likely be tested on the strength of your boundaries and the parameters of how you operate your business on every level. I wanted to share some of the boundaries and parameters I have within the way I run my business in the hopes it will help you run a business with more ease and grace sooner than later.

Here are 4 ways that you can gracefully set boundaries in your business:

1. Have a policy page

For every product, program or service you offer, someone is going to ask you to do something different for them. It could be to offer it in a different format, at a different time or day, with a payment plan option, or dozens of other scenarios than I can't possibly cover here.

As a general rule of thumb, don't accommodate. Yes, there will be times when you make a different decision, but most of the time, stick to the parameters you created in the first place. You can't please everyone, and every time you accommodate someone, you a) typically un-accommodate someone else who was just fine with the way your offer stood in the first place, and b) attract more people who will ask you to bend things for them in the future.

What do you do with the requests you get? Create a policy page from each and every decision you've made on how you will or will not run your business. Then when the next person makes a similar request, you simply send them to that page that explains clearly what your policy is, and that the policy applies to everyone. It takes the edge of it feeling like saying 'no' was a personal decision as much as it makes it super-simple for your team to handle these requests.

2. Be fair to ALL your clients

Being fair to all my clients is one value that I hold dearly that makes it easy for me to be clear about the boundaries I have in place in my business. If you remember that it's NOT that you aren't willing or don't want to be accommodating, but that it simply wouldn't be fair to the rest of your clients and customers by doing so, it makes it much easier to say no graciously, and it keeps your integrity intact.

3. Have a buffer

Having someone on my team who manages these requests is imperative. First, as the businessowner and leader of my company, it's not the best use of my unique brilliance to be dealing with these requests personally. Second, my team is quite capable of knowing when a request may require my attention, and I trust them to let me know. And third, it makes saying 'no' less personal and much more graceful and respectful to the person making the request when they get an answer from my team instead of from me.

4. Be willing to let go

At times, I still struggle with a tendency to over-explain. I like to craft just the right words to make sure someone understands my decision about something. I've realized that in doing so I've wasted a lot of time, energy and emotion. So I stopped doing that for the most part. Recently, I found myself back in that loop again, and when I realized how much of my team's time I was wasting, it bopped me over the head. I instantly went back to my short-but-sweet way of responding.

Here's the thing: there's always going to be a tiny percentage of people who want you to customize and accommodate them. But let them go play somewhere else. Because what happens when you stick to your guns is that you honor your value, your time, and your self-respect. You attract more clients and customers who are ideal and who are respectful of you and your team as well, and your business runs more smoothly and more joyfully.

I'd love to know how this resonates with you. Please leave your thoughts below – and thanks!

(c) 2010 Alicia Forest

About the author:  Alicia M Forest, MBA, 6-Figure Business Breakthrough Mentor, teaches self-employed professionals how to attract more clients, create profit-making products and services, make more sales, and ultimately live the life they desire and deserve. For FREE tips on how to create wild abundance in your business, visit http://www.ClientAbundance.com

14 Comments

  1. Point One is excellent. So often we try to accommodate and it just doesn’t work well. Lots of stress and regret. It’s easier to approach it with a standardized policy as you suggest. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Alicia, I’m writing that policy NOW. Just ran into a push back on my limits this week that felt very disrespectful – in particular when I was the one offering help and value. We know our businesses best and as you say, best to tell those who don’t respect our limits to go play in another sandbox! Thank-you!

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  3. The timing of this message couldn’t be better.
    Just a few weeks ago, I had a ‘potential client’ – someone who has been on my newsletter list for quite some time – approach me with a request to facilitate one of my programs to a ‘different audience’ outside of my niche. She said she had the people and they were all willing to sign up for the program if I would do it. And I must admit, I pondered it.
    Then when she sent me a list of all the contact information for the participants, she attached a note that said, “….and this is what we’re willing to pay for your program.”
    I knew right then – I would be compromising my integrity if I went ahead with this proposal. The ‘quick money’ was tempting, but it would have sent my business in a whole other direction.
    It was definitely a test from the universe!
    ~ Tina

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  4. I think the operative word is Gracefully. Since many of us are running on line businesses with thousands of friends on Facebook etc we don’t want any bad publicity. Your recommendation to have a policy is a great idea AND to have a VA fielding the requests.
    I would also add the importance of saying No to a client who wants to be individually coached or have you perform a service for them (in my case this would be to prepare a business plan or develop their marketing strategy for example). I know in the early days people tend to say yes to almost any client but it is so much better to say no if you sense that the client will be trouble – asking for extra things that were not part of the deal, struggling to pay etc etc (yep, I speak from experience here !!) Far far better to say no and gracefully walk away from them – even if you do take a day job for a while !
    So ….I’m off – to write my policy !
    Thanks Alicia !

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  5. Hi Alicia
    Thank you so much for writing this. I will put the Policy page on my to do list, excellent point.
    Thank you!
    Yvonne

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  6. I’m sitting down now to deal with this, and got your newsletter! My issue is with scheduling and (timely) payment. I’m switching to online scheduling and payment this month, and I know it’s going to be a problem with my first client of the day. He’s always the last to schedule and pay, and now…well…that won’t be possible.
    All of my clients sign an agreement that states all of the policies, but still the envelope gets pushed. I’m inspired to stick to my guns!
    Thsnks!
    Deni

    Reply
  7. Hi Alicia,
    This is a wonderful reminder of how to operate in integrity and self-respect in our businesses. I recently had to “fire” a client and who now continues to email me wanting to be friends outside of our coaching relationship. This was a great reminder for me to keep the boundaries between business and friendship and I so appreciate you’re sharing your wisdom! Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Good morning, Alicia!
    These points are all very valid in one’s personal life, too (well, maybe not the VA, so much)!
    I find myself being far too much of a “soft touch” with my friends, and even acquaintances – about time, money and energy – and it costs me almost every week, when I don’t leave enough to do *my own stuff*.
    Thank you for the clarification and reminders!
    Bright Blessings ~
    Karen J

    Reply
  9. Awesome Alicia! Thanks so much!

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  10. Hi Alicia, love your blog, read it all the time. Keep up the great work.
    This reminds me of a line Dr Phil says a lot: you teach people how to treat you. Nowhere is it more important than in the business world.
    It is also an important reminder of the environment you create when you change your policies. It is said that 20% of the clients give you 80% of the problems in your company. One way to minimize this is by having the best clients for you. Those clients are willing to pay your price and follow your policies.
    In this economic times, this is an important reminder. Entrepreneurs might feel tempted to loosen their standards in order to make money. The problem is that the recession is not going to last forever and then people are going to dislike it when you go back to stricter rules. That is saying nothing about your good clients who might feel resentful of the “special” treatment if they find out. Believe me, they find out. Don’t do it.
    Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  11. Hi Alicia, Great article! Having boundaries is essential and absolutely necessary to grow a successful biz. I have been tested on all these myself recently and it always brings up stuff, especially since my Life Lesson is about boundaries… but having that awareness does help a lot.
    ~ Annika Ek http://www.TrulyU.com

    Reply
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  14. It is a pleasure to connect with you on LinkedIn and also here.

    As a returning coach…after a Sabbatical, I am excited about the ideas you shared here.

    A policy page is definitely a must. And I can relate to your having to resist the impulse to over explain. That usually only leads to more questions and discussion with out really resolving anything.

    Thanks again,

    Mary

    Reply

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