Recently, a new client came to me for business coaching and asked for help to scale her new web development business. When I asked her about some of the problems she was facing with scaling her offerings, she told me she was aware of some inconsistencies in delivery as well as some missed deadlines. In reviewing her online material, the cracks began to show, particularly in quality. She told me that she was aware of the grammar mistakes on her material (blog posts, emails to subscribers, social media posts) but she’s just in so much a hurry to get her useful solutions and information out to her audience that she doesn’t bother with correcting the problems. “Besides,” she justified, “My clients are just as busy as I am and understand that a few typos and missed deadlines don’t dilute my message. I can’t be bothered with those details when I’m doing important work and they understand that. The days of getting things perfect are over.”
I was stunned by her comments, for a number of reasons:
I understand that mistakes happen and sometimes they aren’t caught early, and it’s true that your audience or target market attention span today is much more fleeting than ever before. At the same time, using that fast-paced environment as an excuse to do mediocre work has consequences.
Here’s how I worked with her and used my business coaching to change her perspective.
Finding success with a new business is an amazing experience. You put your idea out there and you get positive response. Suddenly you need to deliver on all those great ideas that you developed and promised to your clients. It can also be a very overwhelming experience, especially if you start as a solopreneur – someone who’s been successfully working alone and suddenly morph into an entrepreneur – someone who can build teams, systems and processes to mass produce that great idea.
The signs and symptoms of overwhelm can be subtle. You miss one or two deadlines, you have a bad experience with a few new clients and brush it off as a bad match with your work, or you notice mistakes in your web copy that you would never have made in the past. Growing a business alone is hard, but the sooner you realize that small mistakes signal cracks in the foundation, the sooner you can fix it. Hiring a part-time assistant with that extra revenue will go a long way in curbing overwhelm. Think of it as a small investment now that will lead to greater gains in the future.
Always do your best work. If you have a business, your biggest focus should be on solving the problems of your client and not trying to justify your sloppy efforts. Don’t fool yourself into believing that if you think it’s okay, others will too. You may have started out by selling your services to friends and family who may have been forgiving of a few mistakes because they knew you and already trusted you, but your biggest gains will come from total strangers, people who need to establish trust immediately in order to take a chance with you. In that case, there is no room for sloppy effort.
Don’t make this about you. Many times, we get advice to position our business as a solution we always wanted to see in the marketplace. Naturally, we might see ourselves as a perfect client. That’s a problem if we impose our own assumptions into our target client profile. Of course, you will be forgiving of your own mistakes, but potential clients will not be as forgiving.
Remind yourself of the times you spent your good money on something of high quality and what you expected when you made that purchase. It’s the same with delivery. Your clients expect a certain level of quality and that expectation of customer service will never be redefined. It will never change, loosen up, or relax. For every person that’s okay with lesser service, there are two customers who will demand excellence. Those two should always be your target market. Why? They will pay more for better service and will sing your praises. It’s the quickest way to develop a reputation of excellence and grow your client base.
Giving my client some real life feedback really hit home for her. I actually fit her demographic. I was a potential customer and would have loved to give her some business, but hearing her justify mediocre service turned me off. She was floored. She didn’t realize that she was missing important opportunities that could increase visibility for her work.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your clients are just like you. They’re not purchasing from you because of your personality. They’re purchasing from you because of your offering … they’re willing to tolerate your personality to get the work done. The more you abuse that courtesy, the more likely you are to alienate your client base.
As an entrepreneur, growing a business and scaling up means taking on more than you can handle, and then learning to delegate. It’s the most important skill you can master and it doesn’t come easy, especially for those of us who naturally like to work on our own. Finding ways to build this skill will translate into tremendous gains. Remember also that practice makes perfect, so keep working on it.
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