It is common to believe that in business we must play nicely with others in order to succeed.
We don’t want to upset customers. We want people to continue coming back. After all, that’s what makes a successful business: repeat customers who are happy with the product or service, right?
Yet there are times when we can be too nice, which can do a great disservice to our company. Still don’t believe me? This morning on The Big Idea Donny featured a lady who owned a business. She gave away a lot of free things, such as wine tastings. She gave away so much that people came to hang around her shop for these giveaways, these freebies, and to chat. But they weren’t buying what she was selling.
One lady, who had become her friend, purchased an item. The item was created, and the lady continued coming into the shop to visit, but she never paid for and picked up this item that she had asked the store owner to make. The store owner, in an effort to be ‘nice’, never pushed her to purchase and take the item.
Giving away freebies is a great incentive to reel customers in, but if they are only coming in for what is free, where is the profit?
How can you tell if you are being too nice in business?
- If clients come only to chat
- If clients are friends first and customers last (or not at all)
- If you are too afraid to speak up and ask for what is yours (such as this lady was about the item she ‘sold’)
- If you are losing money because you continue to give, give, and give some more
- If you aren’t clear on your expectations
- If you let these ‘friendships’ stand in the way of the money that you should be making
I had a client for a while who I really liked. She was a steady client, and I did a lot of business and promotional writing for her company. She was constantly late in paying, or she would not respond to my requests to pay. Yet she would want to chat. I knew everything about her life. I actually had to tell her at one point, after a half hour phone call of which we spent the majority of the time discussing her marriage, that I would have to start limiting our calls to ten minutes and charging for anything after that.
After repeated attempts to get payment for one writing project I had done, I gave up and wrote it off as bad business. Yet a few months later the client reappeared and asked me to do more work. She explained that she had been in a bad place in her life, and she paid me for the writing that was still outstanding.
I was in a bad place. I knew that the writing project, if I got paid, would be a great way to make some extra money. But I also knew I would spend a lot of time doing the writing and that I may not receive payment at all. Plus, the constant phone calls and Instant Messages took up a lot of my time, which got in the way of other business.
In the end I severed the relationship. To me, the money that I might lose, and the time I might spend on her projects when I could be doing something for someone else who would pay, was just not worth it.
Sometimes in business we have to make decisions that might seem as though we are giving up money on projects but that will probably, down the road, benefit us more. By not spending time on this lady’s projects I was able to focus on some other projects, for which I promptly received payment.
Liking clients isn’t the bottom line. As Donny said, we don’t have to be friends with our clients. We want to like them; we hope to like them; it makes life easier and business nicer if we like them, but it isn’t always posisble. You can’t let your feelings get in the way of your business or you won’t have a business left.
Being nice is great, but if you are nice to the point of disrupting your livelihood it is time to take a tougher stand.