I live a couple blocks from the world’s best pizzeria. I count it among my many blessings. The owner, Rich, has perfected red sauce. He hires neighborhood kids. He’ll donate a dozen pies to any local charity that asks.
So why does he have reviews like this, from Lauren C who lives in the “theater district” in Manhattan:
“I have never been treated so poorly by the owner of a restaurant or any employee. I will never be back and recommend you avoid this restaurant at all cost.
“The food does not compensate for the horrible attitude and hostility of a mean man.”
I have a pretty good guess, because here’s what happened to me, many moons ago.
I asked for my salad dressing on the side. My server said, “I can give you no dressing. I can give you a ~whisper~ of dressing. But I can’t put your dressing on the side.”
Um what? I’m feeling kinda Lauren C right now.
My server explained that the chef carefully constructs each dish, which is meant to be consumed as a whole, not as individual parts. It’s like a piece of art. You wouldn’t ask an artist to put all the yellow in a pot on the side of the painting.
In other words, this restaurant has integrity. They know their food is amazing. They know what makes it amazing. And they don’t mess with the magic.
That’s called having boundaries (and I suspect Lauren C isn’t used to facing boundaries).
Boundaries are how you maintain the integrity of your work.
Most of us don’t even consider business boundaries. That’s how we get scope creep and asshole clients.
You can recognize missing boundaries when you put together a proposal for a client and the client comes back with a list of tweaks they want to make to your package and you say yes.
You say yes because you want the money and the client and the opportunity. What you trade for the yes is the integrity of your plan.
The thoughtfulness and experience you put into the creation of a package of services that you know will serve this client the best.
You lose your voice of wisdom – which, as a consultant, is one of your most valuable assets. It’s why you attracted this client in the first place.
How successful will this project really be if your voice of wisdom can be pushed back and questioned?
Of course – partnership is important and that will always require some discussion and collaboration and the lovely unfolding of new ideas. It’s your job to recognize when your client is treading into your area of expertise and crossing a boundary.
When you let your boundaries get crossed, you’re not a consultant, you’re a freelancer.
Rich’s expertise is Italian food. Lauren C’s expertise is not Italian food. Rich has every single right – and I would even say *responsibility* – as the expert to say what can and cannot be changed to maintain the integrity of his food.
And so do you.
Granted, Rich is a white dude, which comes with a level of privilege that likely makes it easier for him to tell a customer no, to risk a bad review on Yelp.
But Rich can also bet on the fact that his work is so flippin good that all of the 5 star reviews saying this is the best pizza on the planet will overshadow the Lauren Cs of the world.
And so can you.
Focus on constructing amazing packages for your services. Produce extraordinary results for clients. And your reputation takes care of itself.
Business boundaries start like this:
Our focus is on…
My policy is…
Finish one of these sentences and email me with your business boundary.