I’ve been lucky enough to have been in business for 11 years with essentially the same business (8 years as a sole proprietor and 3 as a limited company).
The one thing I’ve learned is to listen to my gut. Why? because more often than not it’s right and keeps you out of trouble.
When you’re in business for a while you get to know different types of people quite well, but usually if you really think about it you can categorise people/businesses into your own library of who you like, dislike, want to work with and most importantly don’t.
When you first start out you sometimes don’t get a choice, you have to work with almost anyone as you need to get paid to live, but over time, if you’re lucky enough, you weed out the people or businesses who cause you problems.
Eventually you build a base of good (hopefully regular enough) customers that you like working with and now you essentially get the choice of taking on new clients. Ideally who match the good ones (profiles) that you already have.
This can be a very liberating point in your business career as you will probably feel more in control than you ever have.
Turning away work or in real terms money is never really an easy thing to do of course, but I can certainly say if your gut is telling you the customer could be trouble or at least the baggage they unfortunately bring could spell disaster, then it’s always the right choice to politely say no thanks.
Who knows they may then meet the perfect person or company who can spend the time or have the knowledge to help their situation, you can’t help everyone!
It’s never an easy choice if the person is a nice one and it’s the situation that makes you want to leave it, especially because you instinctively want to help them.
However time is limited and when you have a base of clients depending on you it’s actually being irresponsible to them and your business to take on a project that could delay others or at the very least divert your attention, leading to a drop in customer service or quality.
I had a very recent experience with this (the reason for this article), the client is a really nice person and I really liked the type of business they had. It was in an industry I hadn’t really work with before, so even after 11 years there is still new and exciting projects to obsess over.
The person was given my name and number by someone I know and trust and has brought other good business to my company, so of course I wanted to help as much as I could.
However things moved very fast and there was a few little red flags popping up, my gut was saying
Hey you’ve been here before you know what happens next…don’t you? Oi are you sure you want to ignore me…!
So learning my lessons from the past, I had to politely declined the work. I really didn’t want to, but for my business it was the right thing to do.
I gave as much advice as I could to help the client mitigate the situation so they were hopefully at least no worse off than they were before and because they were recommended to me I will continue to advise and help where I can to ensure they are ok.
I take it very seriously when someone recommends me as they are putting their reputation on the line with me and my reputation is also on the line with them, especially on how I handle the situation. Do it badly and I simply don’t get future recommendations.
Even though I’ll still advise the person at no cost to them, I’ve probably saved myself hours of lost time and possible frustration, not necessarily with the person, but the way the whole situation was set up.
This is why I think you should listen to your gut (= experience), usually knows before you do when something could be trouble, the trick though is to know if it’s your gut and not necessarily that you are risk adverse, so say something like not being confident because it could be a game changer deal, those are different issues entirely, maybe there’s another article in that 😉
I hope you found this article useful or thought provoking. I’d also love to hear your own experiences in the comments below because 11 years on and I’m still learning how to run a business and deal with clients.
photo credit: Ingrid Richter