This is the stuff nightmares are made of – or at least this is how I feel right now. For those business owners who manage staff who sell the outcomes of their intellect, this is the hardest part of owning a business. I feel this is a total load balancing act and as the owner, I am a tight rope walker.
Problem – To give quality product at high profit margin – quality long term staff are the keys to success. You also need to employ those better than yourself whenever possible and certainly in specialty areas if you want a long term safe business.
The problem is to keep this kind of employee happy is always a challenge. This kind of employee needs challenge, but not too much and not too hard in respect to delivery times. They need to feel good about their work. They generally like to be part of a team, even if the part is only signs of appreciation and discussion. They need to be respected in all areas of their life by their employee.
Here is the problem. The client thinks they are always right and don’t give a damn about how they treat your staff – they can do what they want. In the end you can try to manage this, accept this and lose staff or walk away.
So how to manage this – these are my tips.
- Remember going into an agreement is a 2 way streak. You can be offered a sale but you don’t have to accept the sale if you see signs that this business is an abusive business. It will probably only cost you in the end.
- There are times a good business has stress and will behave in what you may consider as unrealistic ways. This does not mean it is a bad business. There always needs to be give and take.
- Be clear about your expectations and demand a win/win relationship. However chose your timing in regards to demands.
- Protect your staff where ever possible from abusive clients, and don’t be afraid to stay – No. Sometimes you just have to.
- Finally remember – if you are busting your guts to fix an abusive situation consider letting go of it, and spending your time on a more productive option.
- Weigh up your approach. Sometimes the direct approach is necessary – but this is rare and you have a high chance that this approach will not end up in your favour – unless your desire is to end the relationship. It may be better to offer a win / win outcome.
- Choose your battle. Customers could write or say abusive things – this is purely the emotion related to the problem. Solve the problem – don’t go over the abuse. Deal with the abuse and decide how you want to deal with that as a separate matter. Don’t get the two mixed together.
- Ask your staff – if you have a company need that is above and beyond, and accept a No. But do not ask too often. Encourage a No, and accept this graciously without any stress or guilt being passed on.
- Be prepared to say Goodbye. 5% of your clients will bring you 95% of your profits and they take only 5% of your stress, whilst the other 95% of your stress only brings 5% profits. A customer who always brings stress – is just not worth it – Say Goodbye.
Clients can be abusive and not even know it. I see this all the time in programming.
Here are some examples and suggested ways of managing.
I asked for this, why isn’t it done? (never mind they only asked for it 5 minutes ago, and you have not had chance to make this change) Explain clearly, I understand you want this change. This change will take X time to programme and test. You can expect to get this back to yourself by..
I would like to meet with you at 9.30pm (the time of this request is 6.30pm, and you work a 9-5 day).Generally you can consider a once off with this request, but let it be known this is a once off.
So if you find this area a challenge as a manager – remember each experience must be handled uniquely and with wisdom. This wisdom you will gain with experience and reviewing of a situation. So if you lose, turn that into a win, by reviewing and gaining experience. If you Win – Double up, by reviewing and gaining experience.
Bottom line – bullying and harassment by any one, client, owner or staff is not acceptable. So don’t just accept it, take control and work out what you want to do and how you want to handle this matter.
Cate Schafing is a successful Australian business woman in the IT field serving as CEO of Accede Holdings Pty. Ltd. makers of Ezymeetz, ICE and Virtual Gym. She develops innovative new technological products as a programmer and entrepreneur. In gratitude for her success her company supports NFP’s by donating $5000 per month in programming time for NFP’s requesting work.