Posts Tagged ‘Discipline’

10 Ways That You’re Making Your Jobs and Clients More Difficult

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I’m lucky to work with fantastic clients – but we’ve all had those clients that weren’t so great, right? If you’re in business (any business for that matter) you’ve had to work with those challenging people that we all love to talk about, but don’t like having to deal with. Even the nicest people can become stressful and more demanding during the design process. After all, they’re spending a lot of money, and it’s for something very personal and important to them – their homes.

But I want to throw something out there for you to think about: Maybe you’re enabling their behavior. Now before you roll your eyes or tell me I’m wrong, give me a minute to show you 10 ways that you just might be giving your clients permission to be difficult. And these tips don’t just apply to design clients. No matter what business you’re in, these ideas can help you make your relationship with your clients better than ever! Even the nicest people have their limits.

1. You aren’t setting boundaries. If your client starts calling, texting, or emailing you at all hours of the day and night, what do you do? I’m not talking about an emergency situation, but just general questions. If you answer those calls and texts, you’re saying that working at this hour is right for you. We want to provide the very best customer service experience to our clients, but not at the expense of our personal lives. Remember that you’re a professional, and what professional (doctor, lawyer, teacher) responds at 11pm on a Saturday unless it is truly a life-threatening emergency? You should have something in your “welcome packet” that spells out exactly when you will be available to the client and then address this verbally with the client in the very first meeting after they have signed the contract. That way you’re setting the expectations from day one. And the first few times they contact you after hours, you have a few options. You can respond with a “Thanks, I’ll get back to you with an answer tomorrow/Monday.” That will help set the tone and will train the client that you don’t work 24/7. But you also run the risk of offending them and making them feel stupid for texting you. I think it also works well to not answer the text after hours and then respond with an email or text first thing the following morning, then you can answer their question or set a meeting time for finding a solution to their problem. If the client continues to text, call, and email after hours, you can sit down with the client and explain that you love working with her, but that you need time with your family, too. But again, I think if you set boundaries personally and you aren’t checking your texts and emails after hours, then it will take care of itself. Either way, set those boundaries and stick to them. If you give in, you’re giving people permission to contribute to your lack of balance.

2. You’re acting like a friend. Let me explain that – it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly, but you aren’t friends with your clients. At least not at first. Yes, there are a few clients that become my close personal friends, but they aren’t all that way.  And the ones that are my dearest personal friends are great at respecting our personal/professional boundaries. I think it’s important to remember that these amazing people are your customers first and foremost and you are their service provider. You don’t need to get so close with them that they are oversharing about their personal lives, and you shouldn’t be doing that, either. You can get into embarrassing situations that way. And you can also start blurring lines with boundaries, or bending your rules. For example, you might start thinking that you want to “help them” or give them a “deal” by not charging for all of your hours. Or on the flip side, you might start relaxing your standards or customer service because they are your “friends” and that isn’t appropriate either. They paid you for a professional service and that’s exactly what they should get, including deadlines that are met and you keeping your word. This is business and you are in it to make money and they are engaging you to get their money’s worth. Remember that. And if your client happens to actually be a friend of yours, try to separate the two relationships in your mind as you work with them.

3. Your contract isn’t clear. Everything that could be an issue should be spelled out ahead of time. How many revisions will you allow to the design? Exactly when will you get paid? Do they owe you a commission or fee if they shop for their own products? Anything that could be an issue in the future should be addressed in the contract. And you should go over it line by line with them before you both sign. I know this is a pain, but it will save you from the major challenges and disagreements in the future.

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4. You aren’t disciplined. So you have the contract, and everything is all spelled out. But did you let something slide because you didn’t want to confront your client with an issue? Or did you let your own processes drop because you got behind? Did you miss a deadline, or three? You have to be so disciplined in this business and you have to stick to your guns (and your deadlines). It isn’t fun or easy, but it’s part of being a business owner or at least a successful business owner.

5. You didn’t own your mistakes. We ALL make mistakes, it’s just the nature of the business. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that makes or breaks your company. Communication is absolutely a must here – you need to admit to the mistake immediately, and offer an action plan to make it right. This is hard, but it is critical. And if you have to buy that sofa that came in the wrong size, so be it. Because the way you deal with mistakes is going to decide if your client is reasonable, AND how they are going to talk about you in the future…to other prospective clients! It’s that important, so always make it right.

6. You’re not communicating effectively. How do you communicate with your clients? It’s so important to constantly keep your client updated on the progress of their project and what you’re doing to keep everything rolling. You should have a scheduled weekly update via email, and then regular phone calls, too. Clients just want to know that you’re doing everything you can to make their project a success. If you don’t tell them how things are going, they’re going to think you aren’t working enough or that you have dropped the ball in some way, or that you have taken all their money and you are using it to vacation and drink fruity cocktails on a beach somewhere! Not communicating with your clients is going to add a lot of stress to your relationship and there is enough stress in this process already, but some of it is totally avoidable if you communicate consistently and clearly.

7. You’re texting with your client. Speaking of communication, be careful about texting with your clients. You want a record of any decisions that are made, any explanations, and any issues – and it’s hard to have that with a text. If your client is addicted to texting (or you are), great. But be sure you regularly (as in after every session of texting and at least at the end of every week) send a wrap-up email that reviews any decisions or conversations made by text. That way, you can put that email in your client folder and save it for any future issues that may come up. If you don’t have that record, it’s just a she-said/she-said problem that will make you both insane. I also take pictures of texts if there is ever a time that clients approve things or send important information by text so I have a copy of it for future reference. I email those images of the texts to myself and put them in the client file as well. And this isn’t just to protect myself. It’s to protect the client, too. There have been times that I agreed to something by text and then remembered it differently. Having images of our text exchanges actually held me accountable.

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8. You didn’t really listen. We’ve gone over this before, but sometimes we listen to our clients (sort of), and sometimes we really hear them. Did the client tell you what her budget was, but you thought “she’s definitely got more money than that”? You didn’t listen. Did he tell you that he has four dogs and then you presented a stunning silk sofa? You didn’t listen. The key to having a satisfied customer is in listening and delivering on what you heard.

9. You got angry. Yes, clients can make us all mad, but we have to be the person in control in any confrontation with our clients. They are already stressed and uptight about spending money and allowing someone else to have control in their homes. So they probably aren’t going to react the way they normally would in any stressful situation that comes up. You have to be the calm, cool, and collected person, even when you want to scream. So do whatever you have to do to stay calm – count to 10, step outside for a second, think about fluffy kittens. If you get angry, it will only escalate the situation and that isn’t going to help the craziness at all.

10. You took it personally. So the client didn’t like your selections, or she said that your subcontractor didn’t finish the cabinets correctly. That’s business, not a personal attack on you. Yes, you sweated for hours over the selections and you love every single one, and maybe the subcontractor is your favorite cousin. But the client isn’t saying you’re an idiot by pointing out a problem or saying they want something different. It’s just the nature of this business, not a judgment on you as a person. The less you take things personally, the more you’ll be able to guide your client to the right thing.

So what do you think? Are there ways that you can help avoid the crazy in your projects or help your clients be less challenging? What do you do to control the stress and issues that come with running our businesses? Let me know in the comments section below!

xo,

Tobi-Signature

 

 

 

 

Tobi’s 2012 Resolutions Report Card

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Hi My Fellow Fall Lovers!

I can hardly believe it but here we are in the 4th quarter of 2012. It’s time for buying pumpkins and just weeks until the Holiday Season. Then we’ll be rolling into a brand new Shiny 2013. As I mentioned yesterday, I am back today to check into my progress on my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions.

A few weeks ago, my friend Jo Beth was talking about checking into her goals this year and seeing what could be made what of what’s left of 2012. I LOVED her good news…There is still time to make some of our resolutions come to pass before 2012 is in our rear-view mirror.

So on that note, I wanted to look back at my resolutions for this year and give myself a grade on each. Then I’ll see what I’m going to tackle in the next 12 weeks so I finish strong.

This year, I simplified my goals a bit.  I picked only 6 things to work on and I think that was a really good approach. I feel like I have been more successful than in years past.

Below are my Resolutions and you’ll see my “update” to each that will tell you just where I stand to date. I love putting not only these goals but also my progress out in the Universe to hold myself accountable. And feel free to share your report cards here too by leaving me a comment. I would love to help you stay on track to reach your goals in the coming weeks as well.

First I said…”1. Get Organized–2011 was a bit busy and I let some of my organization fall by the way side, this year I’m on a mission to get things whipped back in shape so I don’t waste time looking for things. A place for everything, and everything in it’s place will be my new motto!”

UPDATE: Well I’m excited to say that I have done some great work in this area. Lots of closet cleaning, garage organizing, office detailing, and organizing of my calendar have happened in 2012. And what do I have to show for it? A much less hectic, much more peaceful life. We aren’t spending time looking for things instead of having fun. We aren’t flying by the seat of our pants to get my daughter a home-cooked breakfast and to school early each day or figuring out what to put on the table for dinner at night, get homework done, and to bed on time. My family and I have really taken our quality of life up several notches thanks to getting organized.  Our score in this area? We aced this one so I’m giving us an A.

My next goal was this…”2. Get Fit–In 2011 my goal was to get healthy.  And I did it by losing 20 pounds and changing my eating from carb based to protein based.  In 2012 my goal is to get fit.  This will involve exercise, weight-lifting, and lots of healthy, natural foods. I am even thinking about growing some of them myself in a backyard garden…what fun! This time next year, I will be showing you my arms and abs of steel.”

UPDATE: Another success story for me in this area. I have now lost a total of 31 pounds since June 2011 and I only have 5 to go.  I have been working with a health coach since June 2012, I am going to yoga 4-6 times each week, running on my treadmill 5 days a week and though I don’t have my arms and abs totally sculpted yet, they are on their way. Plus I have totally integrated a self-care component including regular massages and meditation to become mentally fit as well. But since we still have some time,  I want to take this resolution to the next level in these last 12 weeks. So here’s the plan, I’m starting back with my former personal trainer TOMORROW and our weight lifting focus will be abs and arms. I’ll hopefully be showing you my “after” photos at the end of this year! GRADE A- but I’m working for an A+ by December!

My third resolution was a big one…”3. Save More, Give Better–my church had a great focus in December 2011 based on Wal-Mart’s “Save More, Live Better” slogan.  They changed it to Save More, Give Better and it really made an impression on my 6-year-old and me. This year, we are going to get disciplined about the money we spend and ask ourselves, “can we live without it?” before we buy. What we save we will put in a fund to help others in 2012, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. So it’s a mommy-daughter Save-A-Palooza for 2012!”

UPDATE: Uh-oh…Here’s where things fall a bit short. 🙁 Well, the news isn’t all bad.  I completely turned my company finances and savings around this year. We are very “LEAN AND MEAN” and it’s really showing in our profitability at work, so that is a good thing and it is allowing me to do a LOT more charity work through my company than I did in 2011. So that’s a start. But on the home front, I didn’t do quite as well with my savings. We are still very committed to helping others and have done so in several ways this year already, especially with donating all our gently used items when we got organized including clothes, books, and furnishings. And we will do our favorite charity work this holiday season by adopting “angels” through our church and much more to help those in need. It is really the defining moment of our holiday season each year and nothing could keep us from this experience. But I can’t honestly say we mastered the art of “Do we really need that?” this year. So the next 12 weeks will be crucial in seeing if I can redeem myself (and my little 7-year old shopper) in this area.  Score: C

I love my 4th resolution for the year. It was “4.  365 Days of Thank you–I have always been disciplined at Gratitude. I have told you how I even keep a gratitude journal on my phone and iPad. But in 2011, my thank-you note writing fell short compared to years past. So this year, I am taking cues from this great little book and I am going to be disciplined enough to write at least one thank-you note a day. I know it will have more positive influence on me, than even those that I thank.”

UPDATE: OK, so I started off with a bang on this one and fell off the wagon around April. So now I am on a mission to catch up on all my thank-you’s before that 365th day of 2012 rolls around. I will be writing several notes a day to make this happen but I have no doubt I can do it. It may have been 10 years since my wedding but I still remember the discipline of writing thank you’s for our gifts, so it will be just like riding a bike for me, right?! SCORE: C+ but determined for an A+ by end of year!

Resolution #5 is a great one…”5. Fill People’s Buckets–Thanks to my work with Strength Finders 2.0 last year and spending time on their member’s only website, I was introduced to another little book that I LOVE! I have always liked complimenting, inspiring, and uplifting others, but this year I am going to make a conscious effort to do so.  If I can make a difference in other people’s lives and attitudes, it will be one of life’s biggest rewards.”

UPDATE: Well thanks to my work with other designers through my Mastermind Consulting Group and my Camp Tobi Fairley events, I get an opportunity to lift a lot of people up on a regular basis. And Filling People’s buckets is contagious. Plus you can ALWAYS do more, which is what I am determined to do through these last 3 months of the year. SCORE: A- today heading straight for an A+ in the coming weeks.

By the way…Did you see my recent post on Giving Hugs? I’ve been hugging everyone I see and it seems to be filling people’s buckets by leaps and bounds. People are coming out of the woodwork who read that post and are ready for their “squeeze” so obviously our world is even more hug-deprived than I originally thought. Definitely more hugging is in my future this year and beyond! 🙂

And lastly, my sixth resolution was this…”6. Discipline as a Lifestyle–There are a few areas where it would make my life easier and/or better if I could improve my discipline. Some examples include getting up earlier, exercising more regularly, reading even more business books, using my vision boards more effectively, calling my clients more often, journaling, and monitoring my finances at home and at work more. This isn’t about adding a bunch of new tasks, it’s about being more consistent with the ones I already have. My typical “All or nothing” habits are holding me back a bit. I think ridding myself of those “Nothing” periods will really pay off.”

UPDATE: Well this area is the one I really hit a home run in this year!!! I have been disciplined at getting up at 5am, exercising regularly, reading more, and monitoring my finances, especially at work. I have been disciplined about keeping my daughter on a healthy schedule, keeping myself on a healthy and whole foods eating plan, and I have really kicked that “All or nothing” habit.  There have been very few “nothing” periods this year and you can really see the results both physically and mentally with me.  I am healthier, happier, less stressed, with more stamina and I have a general sense of peace that I’ve never had before. I am spending tons of quality time with my family and I am here to tell you this is the best thing I have ever done for my family and for me!!  EVER!! SCORE A+  (But now the hard part of maintaining this discipline really sets in.)

So here it is…Tobi’s Resolutions Report Card:

I’m feeling really good about my score so far for this, my 40th year . I think it has probably been my best year yet and it’s not over. The next 12 weeks will really tell how I roll into my 41st birthday in January. So far I am feeling better, healthier, and wiser than my thirties and thanks to my new habits, I’m looking younger too! 🙂

How about you, how’s your year going and what are you going to do for a strong finish? I really do want to know. Leave me a comment, please.

Cheers to us all!! xo, Tobi

Resolutions: the good, fun, and the exciting!

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Well, it’s a bright and shiny new year. And if you read my post yesterday, you know I am bringing you 3 days of major goal setting for 2012…Resolutions, Plans, and Dreams. Let’s think of them as brand new shiny goals for the year ahead!

So today I am starting with those ever-exciting resolutions.  I have written resolutions here on my blog each year since 2009 and I am proud to say my track record is pretty good to date.

This year, I am getting more focused than usual thanks to some work I am doing with Mondo Beyondo. Their workshop is more about Dreams, but in preparation they have helped me select my primary focus for the year to come.

And what did I choose? … … …Discipline

If you remember from reading my non-goals, I am great at getting more done that most people. I take action, work hard, and make things happen. Of course, I don’t totally lack discipline, or I couldn’t accomplish what I do. But I do get a bit bored with doing the same thing every day. If I were more disciplined, then I can only imagine where I might end up. Remember how I said my strength is taking something good and making it great? Well that’s what I want to do with discipline in 2012.

I have decided to take my resolutions down to only 6 this year (instead of last year’s 15). And I have also selected things that I am already good at, but that I want to do better. There’s always room for improvement, right?

So it will be like taking all my A’s to A +’s, which I think is a win-win. Not a moment will I spend on my weaknesses thanks to Strength Finders 2.0, but I will be working on going from good to great!

And when times get hectic, if I have to focus on only one thing this year, it will be Discipline, as I believe Discipline encompasses all 6 of my resolutions.

So in 2012 with an overall focus of Discipline in mind, here are my resolutions for this fabulous new year…

1. Get Organized–2011 was a bit busy and I let some of my organization fall by the way side, this year I’m on a mission to get things whipped back in shape so I don’t waste time looking for things. A place for everything, and everything in it’s place will be my new motto!

2. Get Fit–Last year my goal was to get healthy.  And I did it by losing 20 pounds and changing my eating from carb based to protein based.  Now my goal is to get fit.  This will involve exercise, weight-lifting, and lots of healthy, natural foods. I am even thinking about growing some of them myself in a backyard garden…what fun! This time next year, I will be showing you my arms and abs of steel.

3. Save More, Give Better–my church had a great focus in December based on Wal-Mart’s “Save More, Live Better” slogan.  They changed it to Save More, Give Better and it really made an impression on my 6-year-old and me. This year, we are going to get disciplined about the money we spend and ask ourselves, “can we live without it?” before we buy. What we save we will put in a fund to help others in 2012, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. So it’s a mommy-daughter Save-A-Palooza for 2012!

4.  365 Days of Thank you–I have always been disciplined at Gratitude. I have told you how I even keep a gratitude journal on my phone and iPad. But last year, my thank-you note writing fell short compared to years past. So this year, I am taking cues from this great little book and I am going to be disciplined enough to write at least one thank-you note a day. I know it will have more positive influence on me, than even those that I thank.

5. Fill People’s Buckets–Thanks to my work with Strength Finders 2.0 last year and spending time on their member’s only website, I was introduced to another little book that I LOVE! I have always liked complimenting, inspiring, and uplifting others, but this year I am going to make a conscious effort to do so.  If I can make a difference in other people’s lives and attitudes, it will be one of life’s biggest rewards.

6. Discipline as a Lifestyle–There are a few areas where it would make my life easier and/or better if I could improve my discipline. Some examples include getting up earlier, exercising more regularly, reading even more business books, using my vision boards more effectively, calling my clients more often, journaling, and monitoring my finances at home and at work more. This isn’t about adding a bunch of new tasks, it’s about being more consistent with the ones I already have. My typical “All or nothing” habits are holding me back a bit. I think ridding myself of those “Nothing” periods will really pay off.

So there they are. My BIG 6 for 2012 to take me from good to great! It won’t be easy, but the more discipline I practice, the easier they will get. What’s on your list for the year?

I hope you will join me over the next two days to hear about my plans and my dreams for 2012. It’s going to be fun! And please let me know how my team and I can support you in reaching your goals.

Good Luck and Happy 2012~ xo, Tobi