The Antidote

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on January 19, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Project Management

I coach a client who is a freelancer. He’s generally productive and looking at different strategies to grow his small business. In a conversation a couple of weeks ago he mentioned that he had just spent an hour browsing through a website that collected and posted complaints that freelancers have about their clients. He related at how funny it was to read these complaints because so many of them mirrored his own experience with customers.

Now, if someone is relatively productive, the occasional internet browsing is okay and it’s nice to take a break to laugh at something funny. But my advice to him was to drop the site from his bookmarks. It’s not that it would make him unproductive – that’s not the issue that he and I are working on. Rather, the site is poison. It’s highlighting something that is negatively funny about paying clients who are very much like his own. While a humorous site is okay, a site like the one he was browsing can bring serious harm to his business because it can highlight things he doesn’t like about customers in general (and his customers specifically!). I’ve seen it happen: Negative talk about customers can turn into negative feelings toward customers. That’s poison.

We all face poison from time to time in our business. It might be a website that poisons us into becoming annoyed at our customers. It might be a toxic relationship with a friend, family member, vendor, or client that derails us from being productive and confident. It could be something big or it could be just a comment made in passing.

You need to identify and eradicate the poison in your business. Start with a list of the things that annoy you. Make a list of the top ten things that drthe-antidoteive you absolutely crazy. (Even if you have more than ten, start with the ten most annoying). Is it a customer? Is it something about your processes or marketing? Is it a friend or relative? Is it something you said to someone else that you can’t stop thinking about? Is it a challenge that you face when you try to do something?

If there are several similar things on your list, use that as a warning sign for you to make big changes. You may find that it’s mostly customers. That’s not a good sign. It means that you need to filter your customers better or you need to improve your own attitude about customers in general (as I advised my client to do). Is it mostly receivables? That’s not a good sign. It means that you need to create stricter terms or demand more money up-front.

A more normal situation would be to have a variety of annoyances on the list. That’s okay because we’ll always encounter annoying things. Use the list as a sort-of “to-do” list and deal with each annoyance as it comes. That will help to get rid of poisonous, toxic situations in your life that threaten your business. It will keep stress down and productivity and enjoyment up.

Oh, and once you’ve created your poison list this week and solved it… do it again next week. And the week after. And the week after that. Make it a regular habit and you’ll enjoy your work even more!

Happy Blogging!

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