Sometimes it's too easy.
Too easy to say yes when you want to say no.
Too easy to end up spending all of your time–maybe a lifetime–pleasing everybody who asks you to.
Too easy to let people cross, squash, tap dance on, and bulldoze right the fuck over your boundaries.
And too easy to lose grasp on your most crazyhearted dreams because of it.
It's too easy.
We've got all sorts of stuff around being liked, not wanting to “seem selfish,” and doing what we “should do.”
But while you've got your panties in a bunch worrying about appearances, the real you suffers on the inside.
And so does your business, your revenue, and, frankly, the whole world. Because you aren't showing up for it with your sharpest smile and your best Easter clothes, and then everyone gets cheated. (I know that I, personally, love a good pastel colored frock.)
So I wanted to share some of my own hard and fast rules on doing business when you have a tendency to be, well, a little bit of a pushover.
Because you don't build a successful business by letting other (well-meaning) people tear it down.
Time to arch that spine.
5 Business Rules for Pushovers
1. When everyone's demanding your time, your default answer for everything is now: Let me check my calendar and I'll get back to you.
Let me check my calendar and get back to you. Let me check my calendar and get back to you. No wavering. No waffling. No scrambling for an excuse. Say it with conviction. Stand confidently in your statement. And then take the time to decide if it's something you want to do–or not. When you have respect for your own time, other people will, too.–
2. When it turns out that you do have to decline a request, channel your favorite American Idol judge and simply say: It's a no for me. Sorry.
You'll be surprised at how powerful the word no is. You don't need to temper it. You aren't being short. You aren't being rude. It's simply the answer to their question. Again, no need to give reasons. No need to justify your decision. No need to provide proof. Just no. Don't say, “Well, right now it's not looking too good…” or “I'm not entirely sure…” or “Would it be okay if I say no?” or anything else that invites a challenge. If you really want, you can add something like, “That doesn't fit in with my established timeline right now,” but no matter what, make sure you say a firm no. Guilt-free.–
3. When clients scope creep you–AKA innocently and well-meaningly add to their list of requests because they're so excited that they've got you and they're loving your work (a huge compliment, but sometimes tricky to navigate when you've got other commitments on deck)–you do what any professional should do.
If you have the time on your calendar, you let them know you'll issue a change order form and will invoice them the difference. Simple. On the other hand, if you don't have the time, you let them know that you'll be happy to help, but since it wasn't a part of the original project timeline, the earliest you'll be available is X date. And there you have it. (Note: You should have this policy noted in your contract.)–
4. Speaking of contracts, if you don't have one, you're crazy. (Or just didn't realize how important this is.)
The easiest way to avoid confrontation with your clients, with your accountants, with your contractors, with your whomever down the road…is by making things clear up front. Clients not getting you feedback in a timely manner? Include the number of days they have to give feedback listed in your contract…and make them initial by it when they sign. Running a co-branded workshop/course/retreat (also known as entering into a joint venture agreement)? Make sure you state each party's responsibilities, who's paying for what, and when, exactly, everyone's getting paid. Not to mention other important things, like what happens if one party cannot carry out their duties, and who has rights to the content thereafter to reposition, re-use or re-sell. You better believe we had all of this locked, signed and sealed with a kiss for the Brandgasm course. If you're sitting there panicking right now thinking, “Holy smokes, Ash is right,” don't worry. My lawyer and I are actually developing something to help everyone out there on a budget who needs to legally cover their ass…coming soon.–
5. Don't take shit from people. Period.
Too often, the shit we deal with every day is the result of red tape, bureaucracy, and a flawed attempt by a big organization to create order. That guy from your bank who claims that even though you've been in Costa Rica for months, your travel notice just expired so your card has been blocked, but no ma'am, unfortunately we can't unblock your card because you're calling via Skype and our system unfortunately won't register Skype dial pads for you to enter your PIN so SORRY HAVE A NICE DAY. That guy? Fuck that guy. “Please put me on with your manager” is all you've gotta say. And say it again and again until you get someone who can help you.
At the end of the day, the fact of the matter is this:
The things that prevent us from being more assertive in business and in life are made up in our own heads. We obey imaginary rules that dictate what we can or cannot do. And ultimately, we end up living by those rules. Or worse–everybody else's.
And when everybody else is running your life and your business, I've got some bad news.
They're running you, too.
And the last time I checked?
Slavery was so 1850's.