We, as business owners, get so caught up in making money that we find ourselves sometimes taking in any clients instead of creating a vetting process to find ideal businesses with which to work. Our failure to do so may lead to business relationships with abusive clients.
My husband helped me realize that abusive relationships are not limited to romantic couples. For 23 years I was in a toxic relationship with someone I considered a friend, and it took some deep soul-searching to realize that the relationship needed to be severed.
I revisited that experience recently while dealing with a client that I have been having issues with for a year. I let my need of money and my drive to take care of my family allow someone to use the professional relationship they had entered into with me as a forum for abuse. Now, I know that it is up to me to decide with whom I work. That responsibility will always land on me. Which is why I am taking this opportunity to learn from my lessons and to share with you five signs that you should look for when deciding whether or not you're in an abusive business relationship. If you decide that you are, you may want to strongly consider stepping away. These steps can also apply if you are an employee or vendor.
#1: BOUNDARIES ARE NOT IN THEIR VOCABULARY
You have set office hours for a reason: It prevents you from working 24 hours a day. If your client is contacting you at 2 o'clock in the morning to discuss business, run for the hills. This doesn't include a client who clearly acknowledges that they're calling or sending a message after-hours in order to give you a heads-up for when you get into work during normal hours of operation. This is for clients who are oblivious to the fact that you do not work at this time (or worse, ones who do know but just don't care) and expect you to fix their issue right there and then.
#2: USING GUILT TO GET WORK DONE
Does your client guilt you into doing work at the drop of a dime knowing that it will lead you to push back other orders of clients who took the time to place their orders based on reasonable deadlines? Have these phrases ever been used?:
#3: YOU'RE A PUNCHING BAG FOR THEIR STRESS
Some people cannot handle stress well. They will either choose to take it out on themselves or on others. While it's never good to keep stress in (exercise that anger and frustration out), it should never be taken out on others. You should never be the punching bag for someone's frustration. If they're not able to sit down and calmly have a conversation with you, red flags should be flying high at this point.
#4: THEY NEVER FOLLOW DEADLINES
Deadlines are necessary to get work completed efficiently and with high quality. I bet that you have experienced this: You clearly communicated a hard deadline for a client, but they treated as a mere suggestion.
Warning bells should be going off right now!
If a company pushes away from the idea of following deadlines, you need to say goodbye. Of course, every once in while, a client may miss a deadline for any number of circumstances, which is up to your discretion whether to allow or not. But if a client routinely disregards precisely set time-frames for when work is due, there is danger ahead. Deadlines are the only way for you to keep your business orders on track. When you have a business that derails that, it's time to find another train.
#5: AFTER DISCUSSING YOUR ISSUES, THE PROBLEMS CONTINUE
"I understand" has become a phrase used, in some cases, to nip a conversation in the bud. You might think the other party is hearing what you're saying, but they're really saying, "I think the problem is on your end, and I'm doing nothing wrong." If the client continues to behave in this abusive manner after you calmly and clearly discussed the situation, it's time to part ways.
There are some amazing clients just waiting to work with you. Be selective and create a business relationship that's a match made in heaven.
Stay tuned for our follow-up entry, "The Vetting Process to a Business Match Made in Heaven."
- Written by Teresa Robinson-Ewers
Today is International Women's Day and what better way to celebrate than to share one of my many female inspirations, Angela Bassett. A woman who made her way as a strong black actress in the Hollywood machine, Bassett played some of the most memorable roles - Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It to becoming the first black female Head of the Secret Service in Olympus Has Fallen. She played three different civil rights activists (Betty Shabazz in Malcolm X and Panther, Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story, and Coretta Scott King in Betty and Coretta) and she's now becoming a legend for new generations with the American Horror Story series. Bassett showed her amazing talent during an interview with The Roots.com when asked to give a few lines of something she remembered from her career. What follows is nothing less than extraordinary. Enjoy and Happy International Women's Day to the fabulous women in your life!
Angela Bassett Performs A Monologue From Macbeth
Having things automated is generally considered a perk. Who doesn’t like warm coffee waiting in your mug, at a time you select, with the flavor of your choosing—all preset and ready to go? But, is auto-marketing the right approach for your business? Let’s look.
What can marketing automation solve?
Deliver a marketing message that resonates with your target audience and leads to a specific action. Seems simple enough, right? Yet, many small business owners miss the mark. Remember, at its core, a marketing message should speak directly to the audience and explain how your company, product or service has value for them—often as a solution to a problem.
Common mistakes include:
We hear a lot about email marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, social media marketingand so forth. And, yes, those are all good (and necessary), but there’s another form of marketing that often goes unmentioned—and it’s one that comes from the heart: cause marketing. This old, but underused, marketing method can help raise the bar and take your combined efforts to a new level by partnering with a non-profit.
Show current and potential customers what you stand for, what you believe in and what you support to make the world a better place. It matters. A lot. According to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey, 89 percent of customers will switch brands to support a cause they care about.
Build your campaign with these steps:
Over the years, we’ve written a plethora of customer service-based articles. Why? Because regardless of industry, service continues to be a small business owner’s secret weapon. A recent Manta online consumer poll found that quality products and services and customer service are the two key factors influencing repeat purchases.
Here are some simple tweaks to help maintain and improve customer service:
Hiring: Make service aptitude part of the job description for all customer-facing jobs. If it’s clear from the get-go, you’re more likely to hire service-minded gems.
Training: Define your version of good customer service, and provide tangible minimum and maximum guidelines with clear expectations.
Consistency: Review protocol and standards for in-person and phone interactions, and across all platforms.
Customer feedback: Your customers really do know best, so ask them on a regular basis how their experience can be improved. Simple online forms or a quick email poll can provide the little nugget needed for impactful modification.
And as you integrate new technology to streamline and improve efficiency, always step back to see the possible effects on service. The reality is, as a small business, your ability to compete with the big guys is limited. Don’t mess with a proven winner. (Manta.com)
Good marketing is more than analyzing data, A/B testing and targeting the perfect audience. Now, don’t misunderstand, all of those things are important. But the one thing that shouldn’t get lost, yet often does, is the human connection. Not only is it the preeminent thing that gets us through life, but it can also boost business.
So, set the human component to maximum when you create content. Here’s how:
Get your story straight. You know your story—tell it. Share your history, your goals and your values. Offering up details about you and your business legitimizes your company and builds trust.
Be a chatterbox. Whether it’s in person, over the phone, via email or on social media, make your mark. Always be friendly—engage customers and make them feel valued.
Tap into empathy. Understanding customers’ struggles puts you on the same level, seeing eye-to-eye, and raises you up from business owner to someone who really understands and cares. That alone helps create loyalty.
Remember, the days of hard-nosed selling and pushy preaching are like faded advertisements on dilapidated brick buildings. Let bygone marketing rest in peace and bring your marketing into the human realm. (Manta.com)
Multitasking is a modern phenomenon—and checking off items from your to-do lists (simultaneously, no less) are like gold medals worn proudly for recognition. But is it really possible to complete multiple complex tasks at the same time and do them all well?
Leadership development expert and author Devora Zack says no. She proposes dedicating time to a singular endeavor—from writing a report to meeting with a client—fully focused in the moment and free of distraction. In her new book Singletasking, Zack explains that multitasking is really just task-switching. And while seemingly more efficient, moving from task to task can zap creativity and efficacy. Concentrating efforts, on the other hand, encourages productivity and quality.
To get started:
It’s no secret that many small businesses aren’t taking full advantage of all social media marketing opportunities. With so many options, most still focus on Facebook. And of the companies working hard at it, the majority aren’t seeing returns. The reality is, however, return on investment (ROI) isn’t always immediate. And that’s okay; there are less quantifiable (but no less advantageous) benefits—such as brand awareness—that take longer to show value.
Having a diverse presence matters, so mix up your social media game to help solidify your company as a viable organization. Partners, current customers and prospects are all part of the social media equation, and they’re paying attention. And when it comes to ROI, broaden your definition. It’s not always about dollars and cents. Introductions to new audiences, unexpected partnerships and media opportunities also add value.
The first step? Find out where your customers spend time—this means branching out beyond Facebook. Dedicate resources, build profiles, add content on a consistent basis and take advantage of each platform’s small business tools. And don’t get discouraged. Many people lurk in the background, so lackluster engagement shouldn’t be a showstopper. But keep in mind that social media isn’t simply about publishing, it’s also about listening, responding and having meaningful conversations.
For more information about social media ROI, take a look at a recent webinar in the Manta Small Business Expert Series. (Manta.com)
If I can help a business owner create the brand they're looking for, my job is done.