If we have a retail business, this is the time of year the soup (or something way worse) hits the fan, the chickens come home to roost, the money comes in or it doesn’t, we are prepared or we’re not, and all the bad (and good) business decisions we have made over the last nine months come back around full circle (and either smack us in the face or take us out to dinner).
This stuff is not for sissies!
Something that can make our businesses run much smoother now and help us create a more sustainable business going forward is to get really clear on our business boundaries.
Boundaries aren’t some kind of mean-girl thing to keep people away. Weak, unclear boundaries will let in all kinds of stuff we do not want to be collecting and our own energy gets lost in the shuffle. Without boundaries we will be drained, overwhelmed and worn out. Our boundaries are always our own responsibility – they can only be crossed by the stuff we allow. Crossed boundaries will always show us the stuff we haven’t dealt with yet.
So what can we do?
1. Set CLEAR intentions
First we need to be clear on our intention for our business. We need to be clear on our values. This creates a space for better decision making. If we are not clear on what we want and where we are headed it is very easy to get off course. We will waste time doing stuff we do not need to be doing. We will make exceptions we shouldn’t be making.
For example – if we started a home based business so we could spend more time with our family we don’t want to be working all weekend. So we set a boundary around when we are available and how much work we can take on in a certain time period and we stick with it. We also respect other people’s boundaries by not requiring our customers or vendors to be available to us on weekends either.
2. Say NO
When I had a cart in the mall, I never sold anything in the first 2 hours and yet every day during this period I would start to get nervous like I would never sell another thing ever again – it is the same feeling when you start to sell regularly on Etsy or your website and then you don’t sell anything for a day or two or maybe a week.
This can be the push to change things that are no longer working, but it can also lead us to take on any work, any opportunity that comes along whether it fits in with our intention for our business and our life or not because this could all end tomorrow – doomsday thinking. This mentality can be the death of us in almost a literal sense because we will run ourselves ragged, undervalue ourselves and make promises that will be impossible to keep.
For example – I get a lot of repeat buyers returning for additional locket lids. This is what I want people to do – I have after all designed my lockets to be interchangeable. But my extra lid sets are very affordable and since I pay the artists I work with commissions on them they do not make me much money. I used to get quite a few buyers looking for discounts on them which wouldn’t be a good business practice for me. I decided to set up a ‘send-a-friend’ program for these rabid fans so they could get lid discounts for referring new buyers – sometimes a “no” can turn into a win-win with a little creative thinking.
If we want to stay in business we have to notice the situations that drain us and take steps to eliminate them.
We have to be able to say no to the wrong stuff so we have the time and space for the right stuff
(And that little voice in your head that screams – “are you crazy, you can’t turn this down, you are lucky to get paid for this – you can make 10 scarves in 2 days for $150.00 and ship them to Peoria” – may get a little quieter – that voice may even crack open a bottle of champagne and whisper hallelujah).
3. Create PHYSICAL Barriers
Sometimes good fences really do make good neighbours. Maybe your studio needs a door or a curtain or a little sign that says “CLOSED” or “DO NOT DISTURB”.
For example – one easy boundary I have set up in my studio is – I don’t answer my own phone. No, I haven’t figured out how to get my dog to answer it (yet) and obviously if I know someone is going to call me at a certain time I will answer it.
But for most of the day I set up a voice mail system and I return calls at the same time every day – yes, once a day (except for a customer emergency – I mean if a Polarity Locket customer has somehow magnetized herself to a train track and a speeding locomotive is fast approaching – I’m on my way, of course).
Julia Roberts made Pretty Woman at twenty one years old and refused to do a nude scene. It wasn’t like she was a big movie star – it was her first starring role. She made a movie about being a prostitute and became the biggest movie star on the planet without doing a nude scene (even in 199? that was pretty remarkable). I don’t think her success happened in spite of her setting this personal boundary. I think it happened because she set this boundary and then she enforced it.
Now, I’m not exactly comparing my refusal to answer the phone with Julia’s refusal to take off her clothes but I kind of am (and I refuse to take off my clothes, too – in fact my customers demand that I don’t … in writing actually).
Our boundaries will be pushed and tested – if we want a strong business, we need to stand strong (and probably fully dressed).