Setting Business Boundaries and Saying No Is Vital To Business Survival - Project Management for Small Business from Denise O'Berry

Setting Business Boundaries and Saying No Is Vital To Business Survival

If you’ve ever had a client or a customer ask you to do something outside of your agreement, asked you to do something more when you’re not going to be paid for it, asked you to work all hours of the day and night when that wasn’t what you agreed to, or any number of other things, then you’re a victim of a business boundaries violation.

It’s something that’s really easy to do in today’s environment, because in this 24 x 7 world, everybody expects things to happen in an instant.

I’m guilty of that too.

We want to make our clients happy. And sometimes that means we sacrifice our boundaries for that to happen. I’m not talking about the occasional emergency. Those things happen. But you want to make sure they don’t turn into the norms of your relationship.

When you’re a small business owner, you have to set boundaries around your business. If you don’t, what you’re going to end up with is a total state of overwhelm.

One thing you can count on: If you let a business boundary violation happen one time, you’re going to let it happen again.

Your very best defense against your boundaries being trampled on is to have an agreement with each and every one of your customers. But one thing’s for sure — having a working agreement with your clients is the way you need to go.

One thing you can count on: If you let a business boundary violation happen one time, you're going to let it happen again.Click To Tweet

Common Business Boundary Violations

Two of the most common areas where business boundaries violations happen are around money and communication.

#1 – Payment Boundary Violations

I got a message from a small business owner who was in panic mode. She’d been working for a particular client for quite some time and the client was way overdue.

Her agreement said they were supposed to pay her by the end of every month. So that’s all good and well. I’m glad that she had it in her agreement, but the problem here lies in her past actions.

She’d been working for this client on a contract basis for a couple of years (2 years!!!), and she said the client had been paying late for almost all that time. She was letting it happen.

What You Should Do If This Happens

It doesn’t do you any good to have working agreements with your customers if you’re not going follow them.

Here’s a rule you need to implement in your business right now.

The very first time someone oversteps your boundaries, put your hand up and say hey, wait, we need to do something different here.

Our agreement says your payment is due by the end of the month. How can we make sure that happens?

Your discussion doesn’t have to be contentious. But it does need to happen.

And it’s better if the discussion takes place face to face (video call or in person). Phone will do, if that’s your only option.

But don’t have the discussion via email. You can initiate it that way to set up a discussion, but I really like making the human connection.

I know it’s scary. But you have to do it. I can guarantee you the business boundary violation will happen again if you don’t.

And one other key point. Don’t keep working if you’re not getting paid. Really. Just don’t.

Save Your Sanity -- Fix Your Working Agreements Now

One thing you can count on: If you let a business boundary violation happen one time, you’re going to let it happen again. Get this FREE checklist to make sure it doesn't.

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#2 – Communication Boundary Violations

Ever have a client text you at all hours of the day and night?

That’s what was happening to a woman who contacted me. She was going nuts, just nuts, because her client was texting her at all hours of the day and night.

The problem was that they never discussed the ways they would communicate before doing business together.

It was an assumption her client made that texting was okay to do. And she didn’t stop it the first time it happened.

The client said it was an emergency. So she took care of it.

Then it became routine, and everything the client contacted her about was an emergency.

Um, no. Everything is not an emergency. (And if it is, that’s a red flag. See below.)

What You Should Do If This Happens

You have to make choices about what you’re going to do when your boundaries have exploded and you realize you never addressed the situation in your working agreements.

Are you going to go ahead and let the behavior continue?

Or are you going to have a conversation with them and say, hey, we need to do something a little bit different here, let’s back up a little bit and decide what will work for both of us, and then we can move forward.

Before you agree to any communication method, think about it from a long-term perspective.

You might be really excited about it when you first sign on with a client, but long term, do you really want all of your clients texting you at any time of the day or night?

It’s not something I’d be too wild about, but it’s your business, so you have to decide what boundaries you’re going to allow.

You’ve got choices.

This is one of the reasons you went in business for yourself. So you wouldn’t have to do something that somebody else was telling you to do.

You have to step into your power, be confident and say, hey, this is what I want for boundaries in my business, and this is what I don’t want for boundaries in my business.

The two most common business boundary violations are around money and communication. Are yours being violated?Click To Tweet

Potential Business Boundary Problems Don’t Happen By Chance – Red Flag Warnings

Now interestingly enough, when you’re getting ready to do business with someone, they will give you little clues about how things are going to work as you move forward.

You need to really pay attention to those clues. Don’t let your excitement over working with someone cloud your judgment. This is business.

And if you’re a “trust your intuition” kind of person, listen to it. I know the times I’ve ignored mine, I’ve been sorry. 🙂

Here’s a red flag that was screaming at a client.

He’d recently gone to see a prospective client at their office. He got there a few minutes early for the appointment so he would make sure and be there on time.

And the prospect kept him waiting for 50, that’s five zero, minutes in the waiting room before seeing him. He was far more patient than I ever would have been.

Now emergencies happen, but nobody communicated with him while he was sitting there waiting.

If someone, a prospective client or customer, keeps you waiting for 50 minutes and they’re not even paying you yet, guess what they’re going to do to you when you’re actually working with them.

Yes, that is a huge red flag.

So take those things into account. Boundaries are all that you have in your business. It’s your business, so you need to make sure your business boundaries are respected.

Make Your Working Agreements Clear

When you’re actually putting together your agreements there are plenty of things you need to include:

  • When and how you can be contacted
  • What your response time is going to be
  • What you’re going to do in terms of deliverables
  • What’s not included
  • How you will bill
  • When you will get paid

Make sure and pick up your copy of my complete Business Working Agreements checklist below.

Save Your Sanity -- Fix Your Working Agreements Now

One thing you can count on: If you let a business boundary violation happen one time, you’re going to let it happen again. Get this FREE checklist to make sure it doesn't.

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You might also want to consider how you will deal with an emergency situation (and what’s considered an emergency).

Make sure you include additional compensation for your services in these circumstances.

So if the customer has an emergency situation, you charge them a premium amount to deal with that situation. That way they understand it’s a situation that’s out of the norm, so it won’t be abused.

Sometimes You Have To Say No

So next let’s talk about saying no, because sometimes you do need to say no to someone that you’re considering doing business with.

And oftentimes, the universe will tell you that it’s probably not the right thing to do to say yes. (See red flags above!)

You’ll get different clues. You just need to listen to those clues.

It’s that little nagging doubt that we hear when we’re getting ready to do business with a new client or customer and we just don’t know for sure what we should do about it. If you don’t listen to it, it could cause a problem going forward.

Now the cool thing about saying no and walking away from things, whether you walk away from them at the beginning or you walk away in the middle, or circumstances have changed and you walk away a little bit later, is when you walk away the universe is going to bring you something to fill up that space, and normally it’s something better.

I know that’s what always happens to me, and in talking to other small business owners, it happens to them too.

It might be really scary to say no, but saying no is not a bad thing.

Saying no allows more of the right things to come into your business space. Think about it every time you decide to do business with someone.

Make sure that you’re not so excited about getting the business that you say yes to something that’s not going to work for you in the long run.

Keep your business boundaries in check and say no when you should and yes when you should, and you’ll have a far more successful business.

Save Your Sanity -- Fix Your Working Agreements Now

One thing you can count on: If you let a business boundary violation happen one time, you’re going to let it happen again. Get this FREE checklist to make sure it doesn't.

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About the Author Denise O'Berry

Hello! I'm Denise, Your Project Partner -- I manage your projects and the project team so you can achieve that dream business you've been chasing. Managing the project plan, the deliverables, the timeline, the to-do list, and the team to get it all done are the things that light up my day. I'd love to help you get your projects done. Click here to learn more.

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