Set Boundaries. Be Happy

She had a client who was absolutely draining her energy, and finally did something about it.

As an exceptionally intuitive and skillful healer, she poured everything into her work. And she knew she had to protect herself for her business to last. We developed strategies for protecting her energy – but she still had a hard time saying no.

One client required more than most, and left her exhausted. To make matters worse, his appointments were usually in the evening, adding a difficult session to an already long day.

So she sent out an email announcing a decision to change a few things, including an end to appointments after 5 p.m.

And she felt instant relief.

It took her weeks to get to that decision. And depending on your own work style, that may seem rather silly. After all, you’re the boss, right? If you don’t want to see people in the evening, then don’t!

But many of you will totally get it – because you see people at crazy hours, too. And if your cash flow is down it’s even worse.

When you are a heart-centered entrepreneur, you’re driven by the satisfaction of serving your clients. You care deeply about their results, and will go the extra mile to help them in any way you can.

And you hate saying no. :) 

Sooner or later, that will get you in trouble.

I myself once walked through an ice storm to meet a client who begged me to come, in spite of the weather. He didn’t make it. I did. And then I had to walk home again!

I’ll bet you have stories like that too.

And don’t get even me started on what you do for your family. :)

So your emotional valves are often wide open, and you send and receive a lot of energy. It is precisely your ability to CARE that enables you to connect so deeply with those you serve.

But if you’re not careful, all that free flowing energy, and desire to help, will overwhelm your circuits – and eat you alive.

They say that good fences make good neighbors. In the same way, good boundaries make healthy businesses – and business owners.

Make sure you have clear boundaries in every area of your business, including these.

Your Time.

Do you have clarity around when you are – and aren’t – available for networking meetings or client appointments? What about phone calls, texts, or even email responses?

What kind of access do clients have to you during – and after – business hours? 

Social Media

What do you post on line and who sees it?  Can clients and customers send you a friend request? I do allow clients to connect on Facebook (and other social media), but only because I treat ALL of it as a professional platform – not a truly personal page.

If you want to talk about your kids and show pictures of your den on Christmas morning, you need a policy on who you will and won’t connect with on line.

If you have a significant public following, you may want to create a separate account under a pseudonym and use that to share with friends and family, or create a private group just for them.

Payment Policies

Do you have detailed written expectations about how you handle payment and other money issues in your business? Do you follow those policies?

A friend of mine lost several thousand dollars due to a simple misunderstanding with a customer about what was – and wasn’t – included with their payment plan. That could have been avoided with clear and specific language up front. Lesson learned; she’s revising those written expectations.

Dual Relationships

I live in a small town where it’s easy for personal life to bump into my professional life. It’s not at all unusual to find myself serving on a board with one client or sitting next to another at the high school football game. I may coach someone that I also hire for the service they provide.

Those are called dual relationships.

If your business requires you to nurture corporate relationships, this could be great for helping you reach that goal.

On the other hand, if you’re a psychotherapist, financial advisor or grief coach, this could be awkward – and possibly unethical.

My point is that dual relationships require an extra layer of self awareness, and even more clarity about the structure and boundaries of that relationship.

In a sense, as a business owner, you are always ‘on’, because you represent your business everywhere you go. Solid boundaries will help you navigate through when what seemed so clear suddenly isn’t.

Do you have these kind of boundaries spelled out for your peeps? If not, consider adding them to your welcome packet, or to a special page on your website. Your clients won’t mind; if anything, they’ll appreciate knowing exactly where the lines are.

Now – how about you? Where could you create more clarity for your clients?

 Photo Credit: stephen boisvert on Flickr

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