A Difficult Moment a New Helping Or Healing Solo-Professional Can Face and How to Handle it

Difficult Moment

Kim got a new client in her small but growing coaching practice and was thrilled to finally have more business. She stated her rates and terms to which the new client agreed and then Kim set up a time for the initial phone session with the client the following week.

Within a couple days, Kim got an email in which the client attempted to renegotiate the terms of their agreement…it really wasn’t a request, it was more like a matter-of-fact demand. In essence, it was: “I thought about it and here is what I need instead”. After reading this, Kim senses that there wasn’t a misunderstanding, that this may be her prospect’s personality.

Nonetheless, Kim was surprised…it had all started off on a good note. Now Kim is torn between “I need the business” and “I really don’t want to work with someone like her.”

My advice on how to handle this difficult moment:

1. If your relationship starts this way even before the first call, it will most likely not get better than this. People usually go through a honeymoon phase with a helping or healing solo-professional…the client thinks that the solo-professional is the answer to her problem, she is grateful and all is right with the world. Very few if any demands are placed on the professional.

In time, a more realistic picture is formed and the client sees that the relationship between the professional and the client is a reciprocal one in which change happens as a result of both their efforts. Then, the client may begin to give feedback, suggest modifications or ask for changes.

If this is how your prospective client is starting off, I don’t see this translating into a cooperative coaching experience.

2. Do you have a policies and procedures agreement and did you give it to your client before she decided to work with you? This can also include a fact sheet on what to expect from coaching. If you don’t have an agreement written up or a fact sheet, please create them. The client may not have known what to expect or that she couldn’t change the terms of the agreement.

You also have to understand that people can ask for whatever they want; you just have to be certain of your boundaries and limits and enforce them in response to the requests.

3. Give your prospective client the benefit of the doubt. Email the client and let her know in a firm but supportive way that her new terms are not in accordance with your policies and procedures. She will either understand and comply whereupon you can start to work together or she will not budge and you will have to write her a diplomatic “goodbye and good luck” email.

A Word of Caution:

If you are thinking about giving in to her demand because you need the money and are still thinking about taking her on as a client, ask yourself “Do I really want a practice full of these kinds of clients?” Lowering your standards once usually leads to doing it again.

Here’s some things to do for the long-term:

If you don’t have one already, get a policies and procedures agreement in place as well as a fact sheet
Get a crystal-clear clear picture of who your ideal client is
Make sure you are tracking where your prospects are coming from. Maybe the referral source from where you found your prospective client is not where you should be looking for prospects. Determine where your ideal client most likely would be found.

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Work-Life Balance Tips for Small Businesses

People involved in small business get a bad rap for their workaholic ways. You know because you either know someone who is involved in small business or you are that person. Let’s look at some facts about small businesses in San Diego and then ways people involved in small business everywhere can a better create work-life balance.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 99.9-percent of the 27.5 million businesses in the United States are considered small firms with fewer than 500 employees*. According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the majority of companies in San Diego County are small businesses with 50 employees or less. One out of every five small businesses in San Diego County are in the business services segment which includes consulting, engineering, accounting, research and management. The additional types of business segments in descending size order are wholesale trade, manufacturing / repair, transportation, consumer services, specialty construction, builders, retail, finance/real estate/insurance and an “other” segment (the unclassified small businesses in the county). In San Diego County, the average number of people employed by a small business is 7.3 people.

Everyone related to small business – the owners, the employees, the people who cater to and support small businesses – here are three tips for more balance in your life:

1. Schedule time off. Small business owners value the importance of sticking to a schedule and deadlines. Decide how much time you can schedule to relax, be social or spend time with family in the next week and also how much time you would ideally like to have for such activities in the future. Then, schedule time away from work. Maybe this upcoming week you can only dedicate one hour away from everything work related; block out that hour on your calendar immediately. Knowing that your ideal amount of time is two full weekdays per month, a small business owner can set aside those specific dates in February now. Once those days are on the schedule, they must be respected as if they are meetings with the most valuable client. Commit to taking the time off for the things that matter most outside of business and protect that scheduled time.

2. Turn off the cell phone. This goes for small business owners and anyone who has ever thought about work outside of the workplace. Especially when spending time with others outside of working hours, turn off the distractions of business. By removing the distractions of phone calls, text messages, instant messages, e-mails and phone alerts for a short time, you can truly relish in your time away from the office.

Do you (or the small business owner you know) feel anxiety rise up inside of you when you merely consider turning off your phone? What if you took up the challenge of turning your phone off for one hour next week? Maybe it’s turning off the phone for the hour you’ve scheduled for yourself and your family. Maybe you turn off your phone before you fall asleep or leave it off while you get ready in the morning. Another suggestion is to shut off your phone during your commute if you drive. Since you shouldn’t be on it if you are driving, turn it off and turn up your favorite tunes. Whenever you decide to turn off your phone, you are claiming that time for yourself, which is a crucial piece of the work-life balance equation.

Once you’ve turned on your phone again and realized that your business or work hasn’t imploded or exploded, your anxiety will be less the next time you cut off this type of communication. And what if your business does start to implode or explode? If you are not the sole person in your business, then someone will get ahold of you through your significant other, neighbor, friend, coworker or someone will show up where you are to tell you. If you are the sole person in your business, find another business owner in the same situation and work out a trade where you ensure each other’s businesses don’t go awry. Which brings us to the next point.

3. Appoint a second-in-command for when you are inaccessible. You will take time off whether it’s an hour next week or a full month next year, and you don’t want to worry about your work during that time. That would eliminate the balance. Select a second-in-command and let the person know in what circumstance they will be in charge and how to reach you if a true emergency arises. (You may want to clarify what you consider an emergency with this person.) Let everyone in your company and important vendors know who is in charge in your absence moving forward. That way if something comes up in the hour you are in a business meeting or at your child’s play or in the month you are on vacation abroad, all employees and important vendors will know who to go to. Your second-in-command acts like the gatekeeper to your time away and assesses when he or she needs to contact you. Finally, when setting up your away messages with the times and dates you will be out of pocket, list your second-in-command’s contact information. Your away message may be on your website, in your social media messages, in an e-mail bounce-back message, on your store’s door, and on the phones in your business. If you’d like that breath of fresh air without the worry, then take the steps needed to prevent work from finding you unnecessarily while you are claiming more life in your work-life balance.

With the majority of businesses in United States and in San Diego County operating as small businesses, work-life balance is necessary to continue and grow. By scheduling time off, turning off the cell phone and choosing a second-in-command, you can protect and freely enjoy your time away from the small business you run, work for or support. Here’s to work-life balance in small businesses everywhere!

* The U.S. Small Business Administration sources data from the Office of Advocacy estimates based on data from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, and trends from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Business Employment Dynamics.

Angela Martin is the owner of DEFINING SUCCESS COACHING and is a certified career and life coach who uses proven techniques to help creative people see themselves receiving the recognition they deserve, hear about themselves in their industry and finally feel satisfied even though they previously felt stuck. Angela serves on the Board of the San Diego Professional Coaches’ Alliance and is the Work-Life Balance Writer for San Diego’s Examiner.com. She is also a speaker. Angela was previously the Creative Manager at the advertising agency that did Got Milk?

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