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If I could give every single business owner, solopreneur, or freelancer just one piece of advice, it would be this:
Make a list of every single thing you do not want to tolerate when comes to running your business… every single thing no matter how small… and then create rules, boundaries and systems so that you don’t have to deal with the things on your “Won’t Tolerate” list.
I can’t be any more specific than that because every person and every business is different. There’s no generic list of rules when it comes to doing business with other people.
And more importantly there are no rights and wrongs here, no matter what anyone might tell you about how things “should” be done, it’s your business.
Let’s look at a few things on my list; I’m hoping it will spark some ideas for your list.
1. Silence dammit! Okay I’m an ambivert (yeah I know), but although I can play both sides of the fence so-to-speak, I’m mostly an introvert. I like silence.
This is a big deal for me so this goes up on the “Won’t Tolerate” list, close to the top. I have a hard time reading, focusing, writing, or just working when there’s noise in my environment. So I’ve created some rules about noise.
First, when my partner conveniently forgets that I don’t like noise, I make a whole lot of noise to remind him to please be quiet. Next, we have quiet times where we know the other is working, studying, reading, writing, etc. and we respect the rule.
If I want to enjoy my work, I need to respect my need for quiet, so I work hard to make sure that as much as 70% of my day is spent without noise and distraction. That means turning off the phone ringer if necessary.
2. One ring-a-dingy, two ring-a-dingy. The phone is my nemesis. It is not only noisy (see number 1. above), it is also distracting. The phone never stops to consider whether or not I’m ready for it, nope, it just does it’s thing… very disrespectful.
So in an attempt to show the phone who’s boss, I don’t answer it. HA!
And that is one of the top “Won’t Tolerate” items on my list.
Now this one is important because I want to make sure you understand the importance of knowing your “Won’t Tolerate” items and why there are no right or wrongs here.
First, let’s consider my primary business, I co-own and operate a Porsche only repair shop (I like to call it a boutique). This is the kind of business where one might assume that you are married to business hours and the telephone. You might think it is a rule because it’s the way it has always been done, and it is the way that everyone continues to do it, right? Maybe not…
So how about a little story about… ham… You’ve got the young housewife prepping Easter dinner and it’s, wait for it, ham. She unwraps the ham, throws it on the cutting board, slices off each end, tosses the ends into the trash, throws the rest of it into a roasting pan and it’s off to oven. The husband says, “Dear, why are you cutting off the ends of the ham and throwing them away?” The wife responds, “Well, Dear, it’s the way my mother does it.”
But the husband is not happy with the response, “buy why?” They call Mom. They ask the ham ends question and Mom says, “Well, that’s just the way your grandmother always did it.”
Okay so yes you guessed it, they call Grandma to ask the ham question and Grandma says, “Well, dears, it’s because I only had one roasting pan and the ham was too big, so I cut off the ends to make it fit.”
And that’s why we don’t just assume that the way it has always been done is the only way to get things done.
I run a pretty successful business without ever answering the phone live. I won’t tolerate the interruption. But more importantly, it is far more efficient when someone leaves a message and gives me their questions. I can do the research and answer their questions in just one call, instead of two.
3. Tardiness and missed appointments, Oh My. It’s true… I don’t like customers to be late and I find it pretty intolerable. But missing an appointment altogether… that’s the absolute worst. Very high on my list.
So if a customer is tardy, then they get a very nice warning. I can deal with 15 minutes but 30 minutes late is really pushing it.
If a customer misses an appointment altogether and doesn’t actually call… emergencies aside… I just don’t make them another appointment.
I’ve got a very tight schedule and I only have one technician. So if someone misses his or her appointment I lose a day of work. I don’t double book appointments because I want to give each customer our undivided attention.
The rules benefit the customers as much as they do me.
Knowing that these things are “Won’t Tolerate” items for me, I work hard to control them. When it’s quiet and I can get a lot of work done, when I can return calls on my schedule and when people show up on time my business life is very, very happy.
You’d be surprised at how big a difference you can make in your work life by setting up some rules and boundaries.
You might think that your customers won’t tolerate your rules and boundaries but you’d be wrong. I’ve found that people have no problem following rules as long as they know what the rules are and what is expected of them.
Now your “Won’t Tolerate” list may not be as dramatic as the few items I’ve listed here, but the point isn’t in the items themselves. The more important factor is recognizing what you need to have a productive day, a good day, and to work towards achieving whatever boundaries you need to get there.
Got a few minutes? Then grab a cup of your favorite beverage, your favorite pen and a notebook. Start at the very top and write just two words “Won’t Tolerate”.