Twisting like a pretzel to please the customer

I have seen many small business owners exhibit a willingness to do anything for a customer, such as meeting at odd hours. I oppose the idea–I desire to have a life and I’m not willing to turn into a pretzel to please my customers.

Some believe that flexibility shows the customer that the business “will be there for the customer.” Is this really the message that you want to convey?

I doubt that business owners literally mean that they would do anything to please the customer. So where does they draw the line? Are they willing to give up weekends and evenings. If they are willing to meet customers at 7 p.m., why not 8 p.m., or 9 p.m., or any other time the customer chooses?

Some may say that my questions are silly, that we have to draw the line somewhere. I agree that we must draw a line. I simply disagree where the line should be drawn, and who should draw it.

While I believe that we should exhibit some flexibility in dealing with customers, it should be on our terms. We should establish the type of business we want to own, and then operate on that standard. I choose to have a life in addition to my business. I do not want my business dominating my life and preventing me from enjoying other activities.

I will admit that there was a time I would do almost anything a customer requested. And I was miserable. My life was being dictated by the desires of others. And when I finally realized this and established set work hours, a funny thing happened—customers were generally accommodating. We occasionally lose a lead, but it is rather infrequent. Just as customers find a way to accommodate the cable guy, or the phone company, or a multitude of other service providers, they can find a way to accommodate us as well.

Too many hours can be bad for your health

Working too many hours can be bad for your health, according to Denise Sanders. She writes about a report that found a link between overtime and depression.

Small business owners often wear many hats. You must do the books, build widgets, develop marketing materials, return phone calls, and manage employees. For the typical small business owner this can easily lead to a 60 hour work week.

While it is sometimes necessary to put in long hours to build your business, you must also balance our work load with sufficient time to relax and enjoy life. Otherwise you run the risk of working yourself into an early grave.

This can create a real problem for the small business owner. He often can’t afford to hire someone to perform needed tasks. If he doesn’t do them, they don’t get done.

There are several solutions to this problem. The first is to prioritize– identify what is really important. Some tasks may not be as important as they seem. The second solution is to delegate or outsource when possible. Have your vendor make deliveries, or hire a part-time bookkeeper. The third is better time management in the form of systems. As Denise writes, “If you have the right systems in place, you can limit the emergencies and still maintain an accessible environment, being more productive in the process.”

Systems can eliminate many of the emergencies that rob us of time and energy. The stress of constant crises can be overwhelming and debilitating. They interrupt our work, both physically and mentally.

Systems help us get consistent results. They provide us with clear guidelines for our actions. In a sense, they are like a railroad track– they keep us moving in the desired direction and keep us focused. But without systems we can easily lose direction, and wind up in the ditch. That’s not a pretty sight for a train or a business.

Long-term success requires a long-term commitment

I hear a lot of small business owners complain that they simply can’t find the time to work on certain projects. They want to develop systems and procedures, or improve their filing system, or complete some other project that will have long-term benefits. But they just can’t seem to squeeze the time into their day.

Brian Tracy offers some tips on how to make better use of your time.

Some people allocate specific 30-60 minute time periods each day for exercise. Many people read in the great books 15 minutes each night before retiring. In this way, over time, they eventually read dozens of the best books ever written.

The key to the success of this method of working in specific time segments is for you to plan your day in advance and specifically schedule a fixed time period for a particular activity or task.

Long-term projects require a prolonged committment– consistent steps in the right direction. By setting aside some amount of time each day or each week to work on a project you are able to make gradual, yet consistent progress.

Many highly productive people schedule specific activities in preplanned time slots all day long. These people build their work lives around accomplishing key tasks one at a time. As a result, they become more and more productive and eventually produce two times, three times and five times as much as the average person.

Like many time management tips, this is easier said than done. The daily demands of owning a business, in addition to family, friends, and hobbies, can stretch your time very thin. Focusing on priorities, rather than the interest du jour, keeps us moving toward your long-term goals. And to keep that focus, you must regularly schedule time to work on those projects.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.