Almost all my clients are entrepreneurs who provide a service to their clients. One of the challenges that comes with that territory is holding an appropriate distance between your client and yourself. It’s a boundary thing.
We all want friends. We also want to be warm and inviting in our business dealings. I agree. And we want to be respected, paid on time, and not taken advantage of in our business. How do we balance that? How do we draw that line?
It’s a tricky thing.
One thing I do know is that it’s up to you (the entrepreneur) to set the tone. You have to figure out when to be friendly and when to be business like. The client will go as far as you let them.
It certainly depends on what kind of work you are doing with people. There is a boundary around combining business and friendship that is different when it’s between you and your client than if it’s between you and your co-workers.
The positions are more alike between co-workers. The person in the next cube or office isn’t paying you to provide a service. Your customers are, however, and they will take your lead as to how far they can go.
Think back. If you’ve ever had problems with this, what happened that got you in trouble? Did you bend your rules for the client? Did you let them too far into your life? Did you mistake the nature of the relationship? Did you not really have boundaries to begin with? Perhaps they weren’t clear.
You can always be cordial with clients. You can even go beyond that Southern thing of being “polite, but not friendly”, and you need to set the boundaries. No one else will do it for you.
I’ll have some insights on ways to do that in next weeks post…how’s that?