I am all about Fair Play

If you read my posts you’ll already get the fact that I’m all about operating in a meritocracy, or as close to that environment as the world lets me create. I was attracted to sales because it didn’t matter where I grew up, who my parents were, or what connections I had. Talent & hard work made me relatively successful.

That’s why I work for myself now – the only politics are MINE, and I am all about fair play. You work hard, you do good work, you succeed in my world. Of course, I’m not always in control of the dynamics. There are jobs I don’t get because of cronysim, nepotism, or simply because the prospect liked the other guy more than me. And I’m alright with that – I do not rule the world, but I rule MY company’s world. And in my world I am fair to my employees and my customers. The good ones get better treatment.

I am also fair to myself. That means that there are times I actually say the word “no” to my customers. When they ask me to take on a job I know I can’t do because of timing issues & what’s already on my plate (taking on their job would be unfair to my other customers who are already in the cue), when my skill set doesn’t match the task at hand (taking on the job would be unfair to my client because I’d be faking it through parts of the project or learning on the job), or when I know the customer is going to be a royal pain in the rear, not get me the needed information, drag their feet, and make my company look bad.

This follows on the heels and is related to my last post – Knowing When to Fire Your Customer – but in this case I’m not advocating firing them – I’m advocating being fair to them, and to yourself. The customer is not always right, and when they’re blatantly wrong it’s ok to politely tell them so. There may be times when you want to let something they did slide for the sake of keeping the account, but by all means make sure you leverage that “favor” you’re doing them; make sure that they understand that you think they were wrong and you are doing them a favor. It’s ok that you decided to not hold a customer’s feet to the fire and win the battle and lose the war, just make sure that goes into your bag as ammunition for the next time when you must say no.

Be fair to your employees, be fair to your customers, and most importantly, be fair to your company and its reputation.

When is it Time to Start Firing Your Customers?

When do you fire your first customer? Certainly not when you start out and can’t pay your bills. When your business is new, your main concern is earning enough to pay your rent, light bill, and hopefully buy enough groceries to feed your family. You’ll take jobs sometimes knowing they may not be worth it; the customer will be unacceptably difficult and you’ll put so many hours into that one project that you basically work for free. But hey, you’re the new kid in town and as the old saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.

And that’s ok, in the beginning. You need to get some work under your belt, build up your portfolio, and get the word out that you’re good at what you do. But there comes a point when you must start saying no to the obvious problem customer and be much more selective with who you work with. When you finally get so busy that you can’t keep up with all of the work you have, you must do two things:

1. Raise your prices.
2. Fire, or don’t hire, your problem customers.

If you own a small business, or even if you’re a consultant and part of a larger group, you cannot clone yourself. Only so many jobs get done, so you must pick the profitable jobs that will help your reputation, not harm it. That means the client that makes a million changes because they never know what they want and can’t make a decision to save their life must go. That means the customer who wants to haggle over price at the END of the job must go. That means the client that drags their feet and doesn’t get you the information you need in a timely manner, slowing you down and costing you time you could be spending on other projects must go, no matter HOW much you like them.

If you’re sought after because you’re good at what you do, you deserve to earn a living and work with people who can help you maximize your, and ultimately, their potential. The entire point of self employment is having control over when you work, how hard you work, and YES, WHO you work for. Not every sale is worth it, and not every customer deserves your time. The key is, recognize when you’ve reached the point that you cannot keep up. If hiring new staff is not an option, you need to raise prices and be more selective with clients. I guarantee you that it will improve your bottom line, and your quality of work-life.