In Flux with Varying Customers

DBE Series 12

First, I figure out my system.  But then we get new customers who like it their way.  How can I keep it all going smoothly and not kill myself over it?

OK, this is a widespread question and a huge source of stress for many of the DBEs that I’ve worked with.  So let’s tackle this question.  

#1 I want you to challenge yourself to see your system as fluid. 

There are no set checklists that work for all situations, which primarily have to do with customers. 

Because new rules can happen per every new contract.  Then new laws and requests can occur for every single touchpoint in that same company. 

So when I say challenge yourself, I want you to give yourself permission to release the idea that everything is set in stone and perfect because it’s not.  If you’re holding yourself up to this ideal, then that is an expectation that is simply too high and unrealistic.  

#2 I want you to think of the term I just said – touchpoint. It’s a very sterile way of saying, person.  The actual people who work with you on contracts – could be engineers, purchasing people, project managers, accounts payable people, trainers, etc.  And I suggest that you note this down.  People / Systems.  Sometimes in our frustration, we get angry against people who don’t follow the system. 

But perhaps, especially if you’re the small contractor, you’ve got to take a breath and think, “OK, how can I adapt my system to suit the customer’s needs?” Remember, as the small contractor, it’s our job to be of service to them.  I don’t mean to sacrifice yourself or put yourself down the list.  But what I mean is to think of how your system is set up so that it helps you serve your customers really well (according to their definition of really well)

#3 Now, let’s talk about keeping it all smooth and flowing well.  And I am not an expert in this but what I notice is that when I’m calm and my heart is beating at 60 beats per minute, my work’s quality is better.  When I’m overwhelmed, my heartbeat jumps to 100 per hour, and the quality of my work suffers.  This is what your customers feel when they call you, and you’re stressed.  Also, you can’t problem-solve or adapt as quickly when you’re stressed.  My strategy for this is to take care of you and put this into the system.  Make sure to schedule all of your doctor and self-care appointments and keep those appointments.  Make sure to have some downtime to yourself, even if it’s just 10 minutes for a walk around the block.  When you’re sitting at your desk and clenched up in stress, the best thing you can do for yourself is to change your environment – get up, get active, walk around, and get some fresh air.  You need a mental reset before going back in to help the new customers with their new contracts.  

And now I just wanted to wrap this up with this final thought.  Forgive yourself.  Laugh.  And know that you’re not alone in this.  I can help you create a reliable system quite quickly, but if you’re not ready, that’s OK, call up your customer – perhaps your source of stress, and work with them. 

Talk to them.  

Say, I really want to meet your requirements here, and I’m thinking of how best to do this.  Do you have any best practices or systems in place that other contractors have used? 

Is it OK to call you if I have questions? They’re not going to look down upon you for not knowing (because, after all, they don’t know everything either). They’re going to respect you for your honesty and willingness to do what it takes to work with them.

Published by Janet Johnson | Financial Coach for Small Businesses

Janet Johnson is the author of My Money Pivot: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Finding & Making More Money. Before becoming a coach, Janet gained seventeen years of experience in a family-owned manufacturing company. She also trained small business owners in Financial Management and Lean Enterprise for seven years through contracts with the State of Connecticut and the Small Business Administration for seven years.

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