I absolutely LOVE the entrepreneurial and small business owner spirit! Often passion driven, inspired to make an impact, that driving desire to serve. I know it well. We like to dream big, take action and make a difference. Some of us are inspired by numbers and metrics, some through the results of clients, others by goals, still other by intrinsic value. Our inspiration, our why, is for another conversation. The factor bringing uniformity for this conversation is that we are driven. This drive, if left unchecked, can be our downfall. This is why setting business boundaries for your well-being is not only fundamental to your well-being; it is key to your business success.
I’m all for stretch goals and stretch projects, yet even those stretch goals require boundaries. After all, every project is limited by time, money and resources. However, I think this equation itself is limited. A consideration too often not included in the equation is energy. Simply stated, do you have the sustainable energy for the duration of the project? Taken a step further, do you have the energy for the project without any negative consequences to your health and well-being? If the answer is no, it’s time take action to set boundaries around yourself and your business.
“Failing to set business boundaries for your well-being can result in your inability to execute to your full potential.”
Failing to Set Boundaries Around My Business
Let me share one of my BIG fails. Years ago, early in my entrepreneurial career, I had not one, but two businesses. This was three years after starting my first business, four years after leaving my corporate career due to health challenges. You see where I’m going here, right?
The two businesses worked well together. The first business was a support services business, with a focus on marketing and business support. I later rebranded and focused solely on marketing. Through my certifications and client success, I was asked to develop and deliver custom multi-day hands-on training programs to small teams. I developed programs specific to the unique needs of business teams. Clients included Duquesne University and M-Modal (now part of 3M).
Business Success without Boundaries Was My Downfall
In the excitement of my successes, the market need, and the referrals coming in, I founded a training services company. From a business perspective, this made perfect sense. From the perspective of my well-being, this made absolutely NO sense!
At that time, I had yet to develop the skills to build a team, to ensure I had the appropriate support, or the courage to say no to projects that were not aligned with my goals. I was a YES gal operating without enough support and without enough boundaries!
The year was 2012. I remember it well. It was my final shutdown due to health challenges. Business was a success, but my health once again failed me. This is why I am always talking about balance and encouraging others to develop a strong sense of balance earlier in their careers. Without balance in our lives and work, we are at risk of swinging from one project too many to burnout, from overkill to recovery, from too much to too little. Setting boundaries around our business is one of the best ways to protect our well-being.
Five Areas to Set Business Boundaries
Starting a second business in conjunction with health challenges might be an example that most entrepreneurs will smartly avoid. But it’s not the only trap. Here are five more areas where you might not be setting appropriate business boundaries to protect your well-being.
Align the Size of Your Business to YOUR Needs
This gets back to our dreams, our drive. It’s wonderful to dream big, to want to scale, and to offer a diverse platform of products and services. The challenge is that too often we base our goals and the desired size of our business on what we think others or society expects rather than on what serves us and our clients.
Before you commit to investing in and executing new services, scaling or any number of other growth strategies, be sure you are aware of your needs. How much time do you need a day to take care of your own well-being? The greater your self-awareness, the better the decisions you’ll make around what is right for you. In my sample above, I lacked the self-awareness that if I did not maintain the time I needed each day to focus on my health and well-being, I would not have the energy to sustain one business, let alone two businesses. Time alone is not the answer. Time and energy is.
Set Boundaries Around Your Clients
This is a big one! Good customer service is not dependent on fulfilling every whim of every client. It is important to set boundaries around expectations around deliverable dates, edits or changes to deliverables, cancellations, methods of contact, payment terms, project scope and overall expectations. Legal agreements and payment terms are your friend here. If a lack of following your boundaries is due to a respect issue from a client, it’s time for a heart-to-heart or time to simply move on.
Use Boundaries to Protect Your Time
We all know it’s healthy to set boundaries around how often to check email and social media. Just as importantly, you get to decide how much time you dedicate to your business and to each of your clients. It’s your time. This means you also get to decide how much time you dedicate to other areas of your life. Time with your loved ones, time spent on activities and hobbies you love, and time around your well-being.
We often hear about knowing your worth in terms of your value, meaning knowing how much to charge. I think it’s fair to also consider your worth in terms of knowing that you are worth the time it takes to take care of you! Read that again: You are worth the time to take care of you! Do you set boundaries around that self-care time?
Remember, I’ve proven four times in my past that by not valuing your worth in terms of your well-being, in lacking the awareness of your true needs, you will NOT be ‘worth’ any financial value if you simply cannot work due to health. You can read my story here about leaving the corporate world and three shutdowns in my first five years of business.
Set Emotional Boundaries Around Your Business
Just as you are more than your health, you are also more than your business. No matter how intrinsically tied you are to your business, be sure to step back and view your business, its challenges and failures, objectively.
It’s also healthy to have a peer (not family) to talk to regarding the challenges of entrepreneurship. If you have health challenges, find another who understands the added layer of challenges around the uncertainty, pain, fatigue and any of the myriad of symptoms related to your health issues.
Plan for Boundaries Around Scope Creep
Scope creep is sneaky! Your client requests one little change, and you happily oblige. Then you decide you can add this one additional benefit, after all, what great service! And I agree. I love to add unexpected value to my clients. The trouble builds when it’s more than just a little extra here, when it becomes a series of little extras. This is especially true if your client becomes more and more demanding of the little extras. It’s up to you to manage unruly clients and to manage your own ‘niceness.’ Your upfront agreement is key managing scope creep. Awareness is key to stopping scope creep before you need to manage it. If you really want to give that little extra, consider letting your client know you’ll happily add this one extra this one time, while also reminding them that any additional changes will require additional costs.
Apply these five approaches around setting strong business boundaries and you’ll not only build a more sustainable business, you’ll be able to grow it with more ease and with more peace of mind.
If you find it challenging to set and enforce these boundaries, or if you are experiencing the same setbacks around your well-being or in your business, I encourage you to take a look at The Power of I Can’t®. Chances are you’re missing an important piece of the puzzle around your needs. Figure this out, and you’ll figure out how to take your business where you want to take it! And that is what boundaries are all about, a layer of protection to help you achieve your dreams while also preserving your health.
A Special Gift for You
Building your Dream Team can change your life. It changed mine and I want to share this gift with you.
When you build a Dream Team around YOUR needs, capabilities, and desires, you’re on your way to creating the lifestyle and success you desire. More importantly, that you deserve!
In this guide, you’ll walk through 5 simple steps to identify and add your first member of your Dream Team!