Project Management

Say No To This: Building Business Boundaries


It’s natural, as a business owner, to be ambitious. There’s a difference between ambition, though, and stretching yourself too thin.

You may feel as though you have to provide for all of a client’s needs, regardless of whether or not they’re within your wheelhouse. However, this kind of attitude can lead you to over-commit to one of your clients, neglect others, and give up too much of your already limited time.

That’s why it is essential for you to establish boundaries for yourself. Client boundaries will keep you from over-committing to a relationship and allocating resources to places they do not belong.

If you feel like you’ve stretched yourself too thin in order to see to the needs of a client, consider taking the following steps to bring your business back within its appropriate boundaries.

Re-establish Your Niche

If you feel your business operations have drifted from your original intent, you should try and reconnect with that original seed of an idea that drove you to start your business in the first place.

Ask yourself: what is it that you originally set out to do?

Rediscovering your business’s primary purpose is essential to determining whether or not a client is asking you to operate outside of those boundaries.

For example: say you specialize in tailoring and clothing alterations.

A client comes to you and wants you to make her wedding dress. Now, can you make her a wedding dress? You may have the skills to do so, yes. However, unless you’re advertising your services as a wedding dress maker, creating a gown from scratch does not fall under “tailoring and clothing alterations.”

Know Your Limits

Once you’ve re-established your niche in your mind, you’ll need to express that niche to your clients.

To continue with the wedding dress example, you may find yourself having to tell one of your clients that while you can alter a wedding dress that she brings into you, you can’t create one for her by yourself. Even if you have the skills, it’s your responsibility when managing your own business to appropriately allocate your and your employees’ time between your various projects and to not take on challenges that your business can’t handle.

Coming to know your limits requires constant exercises in time management.

If you take advantage of a time tracking tool, you’ll be able to keep track of how much time you dedicate to each client. If one client is taking more time than another, you can assess the reasoning behind that increased attention and determine whether or not that client is asking you to work beyond your limits.

Which client is taking too much of your business’ time?

It’s worth noting that when you re-establish your niche and come to find your business’s limits, you may feel as though you’re setting yourself up to lose business.

That’s not always the case, though.

Yes, some clients who demand too much of you may break with your business, but in return, you’ll be able to regain control over the work you do and how much time you commit to your different partnerships.

Communicate With Your Clients

Once you feel secure in your business’s limitations, take note of the way your clients ask you to contribute your services to one of their projects. If one of your clients proposes something that’s outside of your wheelhouse, don’t immediately say yes, but don’t immediately say no, either.

Remind your client what it is that you do. Discuss with them in order to make it clear that you may not be able to see to all of their needs, but you can fix one of their problems well and quickly.

Communication is essential to ensuring that you can set limits for your business without alienating any existing clients.

Delegate or End a Partnership

That said, some clients don’t take “no” for an answer.

If even after you’ve made your business’s limits clear, a client is asking you to perform a task that you have neither the time nor the resources to complete, you may have to delegate that project to someone else within your organization or put an end to the relationship entirely.

No one wants to call off a partnership.

However, knowing when a partnership is no longer healthy will help you stay on track of your other projects and better retain the core purpose of your business. Though it may feel like it’s your responsibility to help everyone as much as you possibly can, you need to think about your and your business’s health in addition to that of your clients’.

Building business boundaries for yourself and your organization contributes to its financial health and your peace of mind.

Though it can be difficult to re-establish boundaries with a long-time client, make sure that you can re-position yourself within the original intentions of your business. Communicating your limitations with your client leads to more honest and, in the long run, more rewarding relationships, both financially and emotionally.

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