The conclusion of last week’s episode was a cliffhanger with my client Vanessa’s struggle, and that’s where we’ll pick up today. (If you missed the beginning of her story, check it out here: The Practice of Finding Your Power)
Today hear what Vanessa learned about her business and communications system when we dug deeper into her issues with non-compliant (lazy? overwhelmed?) clients. I’ll share what not only helped her recognize her role in the immediate problem, but also to identify where she could adjust her overall system to avoid similar situations in the future.
I’ll give you 5 questions to ask yourself about your business and your clients, and we’ll look at several ways you can uplevel your systems to set your clients up for success in your work together.
Learn about the two different levels of problems we face, plus how to handle a breakdown in your system without losing forward momentum in your business … AKA how to change a tire while driving 120MPH.
You’ll also hear the value of sharing your wisdom in your marketing message, and I’ll share my take on the misconception that marketing stops once you sign on your client.
Your business is one of the best places to use real-life challenges to break yourself open and expand everything about you. The work we’re doing in this episode, while complex and sometimes tedious, is one of the best ways to experience that expansion. Let’s dig in!
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This is where we business owners and entrepreneurs can get in trouble. We think that everyone should just know what’s involved in the work we do, and they don’t.
Welcome to the Soul-Sourced™ Podcast, unconventional business advice for the highly creative, secretly sensitive, and wildly ambitious entrepreneur. I’m your host, Christine Kane. Let’s do this.
Hello everyone, and welcome to episode number 31 of The Soul-Sourced™ Business Podcast, where my ultimate mission is to take you deeper than you’ve ever gone so that you rise higher than you ever dreamed. And we don’t do that by simply faking deep and pretending to be all magical and mystical. We actually do that by facing real life, real business circumstances, and letting those very circumstances teach us in a customized way, where we are getting in our own way or how our minds or our egos have grabbed the keys to the bus and are driving our businesses badly. And this is where it gets magical and mystical. And that’s because your business is one of the best places to lean in and let this deep level of growth just break you open and expand everything about you. And in particular, the work we will be doing together today on this episode is one of the best ways to experience that kind of expansion.
So on our last episode, I left you with a cliffhanger, which I am pretty sure means that no one got any sleep because you were all so busy biting your nails and wondering how all of this could possibly resolve… Or not. So here’s a recap. On our last episode, I read you a deleted section from my book, which is called The Soul-SourcedTM Entrepreneur, and that section was a metaphor that may or may not have been a good one about how I learned to do pull-ups in kind of a backward way. And I related this to business because much of our expansion and success as business owners comes from that backward way in that we grow when we’re willing to face the stuff that doesn’t work. And then we do something different either in ourselves and our emotional responses to things or in our systems and strategies, and it’s often a combination of both of those areas, which you now know is called the Soul Track of your business and the Strategy Track of your business, that internal soft stuff, and that external hard stuff like the numbers and the sales and the marketing.
So at the end of the episode, I shared an example of one of my clients, I called Vanessa, who is a high-level website designer and branding consultant. And Vanessa is a long-term client of mine, so she had already up-leveled her marketing and her messaging to attract only her ideal client, which is small businesses that the budget for a big-time rebrand and website design. And this brings us to this episode’s topic, because even after all that greatness, there was a whole nother thing that came up, and that is that Vanessa’s high paying clients would sometimes just sort of vanish after their first big strategy meeting with her.
And in order for her and her team to make the work happen, they needed to get all kinds of items from the client like photos and bios and their vision, their customer descriptions, their current logos, the list was very long and the client would disappear or they would take forever. And it required tons of reminders and badgering, and it would delay and create a backlog for Vanessa’s team, and she would get stressed and sometimes a little angry. Now, in this case, Vanessa’s clients had already paid her. So it was not a payment issue. It was a how to get your clients to do what they’re supposed to do, so you can do the work they’re paying you for issue. And a lot of you experienced the same thing. I get questions about it all the time. What do I do when clients don’t do the work or don’t do what I need them to do so I can do the work.
Now first, before we begin, one obvious question is this. Shouldn’t I just fire the client without a refund if they don’t do the work. And yes, this is one option. In fact, you should set up clear parameters in your contract. And those parameters would state something like this contract lasts for X amount of time, and if you don’t do X by X time, then our contract is complete and you do not get refunded. Every contract should indeed have such a boundary in it. And I’ve coached people when they’ve had to follow through on these kinds of boundaries. However, that is an M.O. That will grow old If it’s happening quite a bit, and you’re going to lose business, if you have a recurring theme of firing clients like, uh, for instance, I, I, yeah, I, I have only ever released one client and that was years and years and years ago, I gave her a full refund, but it was a situation where this client was just not emotionally doing well enough for coaching and business coaching, and she was continually projecting kind of parental issues onto me and getting triggered by me in really weird ways. And it wasn’t serving her or me. And like I said, I gave her a full refund and I just kindly released her and I hated it, and she hated me, and it was awful.
If your business is operating well, these situations should be very, very rare. And I’m happy that it’s very, very rare on this end. So that means that if a problem is recurring, then the problem might be you and your systems a little more than it is at the client. Like in our situation, Vanessa was seeing this situation more than once and she didn’t want to fire clients. And she had a suspicion that her systems and communications might be able to contribute to a client’s success rather than just telling them it’s their fault.
And her client’s success is what made her happiest, happy clients who bring referrals. And we all want the best for our clients. It’s what brings us a sense of fulfillment in the world. And this is true for Vanessa, and it’s probably true for you. I know it’s definitely true for me. And this is what we’re going to take last episodes lessons, and then morph them into a conversation around clients not doing the work and how you can Uplevel your process and systems to set a client up for success so that if you do have to fire them, you know that you’ve done everything in your power in advance to make sure this does not happen.
Now, please remember the lesson from our last episode. And that is the thing’s not working in your business are little nuggets of gold for you in the expansion of that business. And yes, stuff like this is hard, but it’s also showing you an area where growth is needed on your part. So in a situation that’s gone wrong, you are confronted with two things. First, you have to find a solution for the current situation. And second, you have to go in and take the time to repair the overall system that created the challenge in the first place. So you know how when your computer crashes and you’re collapsed in a puddle of swear words and tears, and you always have that one rational, do you no wrong left brain IMTJ friend who asks you the obvious and condescending question, “Did you back it up? Like, well, did you back it up?” And you know, you look at them like if I fucking backed it up, I wouldn’t be crying.
So we all have those people. But in that situation, you are forced to deal with those two things. You’re dealing with the crash and the fact that you lost a bunch of your stuff, but then hopefully you learn from the experience, and then you deal with the system that created the problem in the first place. So you now create a regular backup habit, or you automate your backups or better yet, you finally moved all your data onto the cloud and the situation is now resolved. Again, the problem is that by the time you have a problem, you now have two issues to confront the first being, how are you going to repair the current situation and find a solution? And the second, which is where I want to focus on this episode, because this is what makes us better business owners, because we’re not spending our time putting out fires, instead, we’re preventing them. We are going to look at how are you going to use the lessons from this situation to create a real long-term solution in your systems? Wow, that was a long sentence.
Anyway, in this case, it is probably going to be your client onboarding process and terms of service. And by the way, whenever you have these two levels of problem in a business, it’s very normal. I call it changing the tires while you’re going 120 miles per hour, because you still have to run the business. You still have to move forward while you’re taking the time to create a healthier business overall. And quick confession here, this is complex work. This process was deep and tedious for Vanessa. I know I can just sit here and spout all this stuff on a podcast, but it’s, it is tedious work. It’s going to take time. And of course not every business is going to be the same as Vanessa’s. I actually almost gave up on doing this episode. I really did. I almost pretended that there wasn’t a cliffhanger in the last episode, because when I really dove into this, I realized there is so much to teach.
And with that out of the way, I’m going to walk you through five questions to ask yourself about your business and your clients. And I’m going to share a few things that Vanessa did that ultimately made her much, much more successful and also much happier. And how you apply this in your business is all in your hands and depends on the specifics of your business. So in the case of a client or clients who don’t do the work, the first question you need to look at is this, why doesn’t a client do the work, or why aren’t my clients doing the work? And because I mentioned that Vanessa had a tendency to be a bit snippy, I will say right off the bat, that if your answer is because they’re clueless and they just want quick fixes, then you might consider that you need to dig a little bit deeper.
What Vanessa discovered when she did, that was a few things. First, she realized that many of these small businesses didn’t understand the branding process and what it even is. They didn’t know all the elements that they would need to provide as she helped them rebrand and build a new image and website. Yes, she explained it as she was on the introductory calls with them, but they didn’t really get the depth of it. She also discovered that they, like every other small business were overwhelmed and they had so many other things going on and they would stop remembering why they had wanted to rebrand in the first place. She also admitted that most of them had terrible filing systems and many of them couldn’t find the things that they were supposed to supply her with. And often they didn’t have copy ready for their site. And they seem to think that copy and writing would magically appear as she built the site.
So, okay, all of this is good, but this is one of the best places to start. Just brain dump all the possibilities around why they aren’t or might not be doing the work. And of course, a caveat here is that we all get clients who just simply aren’t going to do the work. It’s part of having a business. This is an ideal client issue, and you can go back and find episode number 24 of this podcast to learn more about attracting ideal clients and all those little subtle things about finding people who are actually really, truly committed. So Vanessa had already done that work. She had already up-leveled her clients, so this was no longer an issue, but even with that first hurdle created. And even though she had raised her pricing significantly and was getting paid up front, she was still seeing the clients disappear after they’d paid her.
So then let’s look at question number two. Question number two is what misconceptions do your clients have about the service you provide? And when Vanessa looked at this, she could see many, and this is where we business owners and entrepreneurs can get in trouble. We think that everyone should just know what’s involved in the work we do. And they don’t. So in the branding and website design world, Vanessa realized that there are many misconceptions and some of these she had already discovered, they didn’t realize how deep the process would go. They didn’t realize how much they would have to understand about their ideal customers and their own values. They just kind of thought it would be a fun little graphic design process, where they choose a color palette and a tagline and be done with it. And the list that Vanessa created of their misconceptions was pretty long and yours might be as well.
But the key thing is what you do with the awareness that you now have about these misconceptions. Many of us think that this is only something that we worry about in our marketing to get clients. We don’t realize that marketing does not stop once you get a client. And that’s because marketing is communication and that’s really all it is. So our ability to lead need in our business is about keeping our clients educated and communicated with throughout their work with us after they pay us. And that means that you make sure that every misconception that you’ve written down is consistently and proactively, if possible, addressed and communicated. So for Vanessa, what that meant was that in order to help clients understand the process, she took time and built out this very cool framework of the phases of the branding process. And this way, her clients knew exactly where they were in that sequence of getting their rebranding done.
And I will confess that Vanessa was modeling my framework that I built out back when I was doing this work myself, and if any of you have listened to, I think it’s episode number six of this podcast, then you’ll know that I teach something I call The Five Phases of The Entrepreneur. And if you were at the virtual click retreat in December, I taught it there as well. I teach it constantly, and then I anchor back to it constantly, because everyone seems to think that they should move through their business the way you move through school, you know, first grade, second grade, third grade, and it doesn’t work like that. We go in these phases, we master those phases that takes real, it’s like scary to move out of that phase and move to the next one. And it’s very helpful for our clients to see that and be able to identify where they are.
And it’s the same thing with your clients. If you can take the time to teach them and educate them about the phases of the work you do and working with you, it really helps them not to get overwhelmed. And it gives them a framework to lean on as opposed to the knee jerk response of just being impatient, which can lead to giving up. But again, this takes time on your part and deep thinking on your part. You also want to make sure that you are consistently finding ways to educate your clients about the topic itself, meaning that the onboarding process and every phase of the process is also a learning experience for them. And it re anchors them to what they’re doing. So in Vanessa’s case, she changed her meeting sequence. Rather than doing that one big giant meeting that got everyone excited and hyped up. She realized that she needed to break her meetings into a sequence and then use that sequence to keep educating her clients throughout the process, reminding them about all the context and all the things like copywriting and messaging and why that’s such a huge part of their brand and their results and their selling and their web design. All of that.
She also started including what she called Soul Searching Sessions so that she could lead them in understanding this deeper part of the process and get them excited about it, rather than just having them send her all of the photos and old logos and bio’s of the different people, which in some ways contributed to their staying separate from the process of branding. And then this brings us to question number three, which is what do you, the service provider need in hand in order to do your work and make the deliverables happen?
So the answer to this question will inform your onboarding process and reveal what kinds of tools or questionnaires you need to provide. And of course, for someone like Vanessa, her business is a deliverables business. It’s not the same as perhaps a realtor or a coach or a consultant. Your list might not be as long as Vanessa’s was. But again, once you answer this question, you then have to work it into the trajectory of your work with your client. And in Vanessa’s case, this meant doing more than just posting a deadline. It meant checklists. It meant milestones, and thinking through those milestones. It meant setting up a way to do progress reports. It also meant giving the clients little deadlines, and yes, also setting boundaries, which brings us to the next question.
And that is question number four, that you’re going to be asking yourself, which is what boundaries typically get broken in terms of time availability or expectations? In other words, where are the friction points typically happening with you and your clients? And even if you only have a few of them, it’s still good to look at. If you read my book, The Soul-Sourced™ Entrepreneur, then you remember that there is a section called “Where there’s a stress, there’s the lack of a standard.” And it’s just a great thing to remind yourself. My friend Dave Zumpano, that’s his expression where there’s a stress, there’s a lack of a standard. And that’s what we’re looking at here. Because once you ask this question and you answer honestly, and clearly, and you stop blaming your clients for being lame or whatever it is you say about them, it is your responsibility to explore how you set up parameters and boundaries, and then consistently communicate clearly how this works. And with so many of our clients, this is where the big challenge lies that part about you being clear and about being consistent and also doing that without getting, you know, triggery or emotional or snippy.
So for instance, Vanessa realized that in some of the businesses she worked with, there were several different people from each company that would email her all throughout the process, and this was very frustrating to her. This was a stress. And when she saw this, she realized that she needed to require that her clients assign one point person. She named it the point guard cause she was, uh, she was in, she was a basketball player in college. So she named it the point guard. And that was her one single contact person. And her clients loved that name too as well. They, they sort of all giggled and thought it was funny. And then she had to meet with that point guard that person and consistently be clear about boundaries and parameters and deadlines. In other words, keeping them on track for those deadlines, for your deliverables, that’s what you’re doing here. And sometimes that meant she had to remind them of their contract terms, which stated that if she didn’t get them on time, then the client’s deliverables would move to the back of the line and the project would be delayed.
This stuff. I know how hard that can be because you have to be the one to really communicate and show up consistently and stand by your contract. Another cool thing that Vanessa did was that she set up a Friday, like it was a regular Friday 10 minute meeting with the point guard to share the progress and encouragement, and then also allow time for questions or collecting of any items that might be missing. So she used this time for that, and then for education as well, like to remind them of where they were in the phases that she had created so that they would feel a sense of ownership and certainty with a process that has a lot of uncertainty naturally wound up in it.
And let’s move to the fifth and final question. And this one is a big one. This one’s about you, and that is this, what are your core messages about this thing that you do? So for those of you who did my Resilience 2020, program last year, you will know that one of the most popular trainings that I did in it was, about core messages. It’s such a key piece. And it’s important because if you are sensitive at all, as a business owner, and your client is going through a rough patch with their work with you, you may devolve into a pattern where you take it personally, or you blame them, or your pattern may be that you start over-giving or you feel shame or whatever it is, doesn’t matter what it is ’cause it’s just a pattern. But if instead, you can remember your own messaging, your own wisdom, you can stand on that foundation and then you share that message and wisdom with them at those times.
I know this sounds really simple and maybe even a little stupid, but it’s power is undeniable. And I’m going to bring in an example of a client of mine, who is a realtor in a very competitive market, and she would get emotionally wrapped up If her home buying clients offer did not get accepted on this house that they knew was their dream home. And this is not an abnormal occurrence in a competitive market. And then she would start to get a ton of anxiety and she would get freaked out and she’d let this eat up her weekends. And she would walk around fearing that her clients were going to fire her because she would be reacting to their emotional reactivity. So we were on a Q and A, and I asked her to tell me what she knew to be true based on her wisdom after years of being a realtor, and without even a pause, she said to me, Oh my God, in my experience, if it’s not the right house, then it’s not the right house.
It always works out that the perfect house is out there waiting for them and we just haven’t found it yet. And so I coached her to consider turning that into a core message and to begin proactively sharing that when she was dealing with a distraught client who didn’t get the house that they wanted, and that way she could stand on the foundation of the wisdom that she knew rather than what most of us do, which is we let the client’s emotionality determine our emotional state. And we have to learn to turn that around. And Vanessa did the same thing. She believes so deeply in what gets created during the branding process, what gets birthed, that she created some key messages that she would share when clients would get overwhelmed or stop believing in themselves rather than frustrated at their negativity, she began stepping into the role of leader and encourager as well as being their designer. And in that way, she became a much more powerful leader of that process, and of course, this turned into more referrals and continues to turn into more referrals because when a client feels seen and understood during their work with you, they are so much more relaxed and so much more ready to share you with other people.
So I know we’ve walked through a lot here and if you have never done any kind of work like this before, this is going to seem like a whole lot, after all, most, no, not most, there’s many people who would just say to fire clients who don’t do everything perfectly. And of course, as we discussed at the start that will sometimes need to happen. But I believe that this kind of work is the difference between just sort of putting a shingle out and saying, you do this thing, this is my business, and really deeply serving a client, which of course, for those of us who are Soul-Sourced™, makes for a more up-leveled experience for you and for your team and for your business and for your clients, for everyone involved. And yes, this takes time to build, but hopefully this episode, if you haven’t already started, will get you started.
And with that, I will simply say, thank you for listening to the Soul-Sourced™ Business Podcast, and if you know, a business owner or entrepreneur or leader who is having struggles with clients, please send them the link to this episode. Let’s give some love this month to the sensitive types like us out there so that we can all do the work that we were born to do in a more Upleveled way, and really, really love these businesses that we’ve created. Thank you, everyone. And I will see you on our next episode.