Ok, so the title does sound a little doom and gloom but it wasn’t really meant to be that way.
In another 5 months the business will be 9 years old. When I started the business, like many other business owners, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I had this glitzy and starry eyed impression of running my own business and being my own boss. I would ride into a clients on my trusty steed and make all of their IT systems work and when I’d finish I would furnish them with an invoice that they would happily pay. On those days where work was quiet I would take the time off and spend time with my family or maybe go for a bike ride but on the whole it would be great.
The reality is often very different and a raft of new skills that must be learned and plethora of emotions in dealing with clients. Often I would find that I would get a call to resolve a issue on a clients network which I would rush to attend only to wait long periods to receive payments for. I soon learnt that I would be working longer hours than ever before for what seemed to be significantly less pay. But it’s not all doom and gloom as I have been very privileged to work for and with some amazing people who do value the work that I do for them.
So what is this post actually about?
A sanity check for me? A way for me to rationalise a situation in my own head? Maybe, but hopefully it may help others facing the same situation.
The last few weeks have been some of the toughest times personally in business that I have had this week whereby I learned that sometimes the best client is not always the best client. There have been a great many sayings that coin the situation best and all of which say it all on paper, for example:
“You can have the biggest contract but it’s worthless if you don’t get paid”
“Some lessons you have to pay to learn”
The fact is that when you are on the outside looking in then it is all very black and white; you can look at what is happening and say “you should do this…”. However, what makes us human is our emotions and it is those emotions that will always betray us as they will remove rational thought in what would normally be a simple situation. If we look at the first saying, the rational side say “cut them loose”, “why would you keep servicing a client if you don’t get paid?”. But the emotional side happens when you have a relationship with someone in a position of power in that business who assures you “yes I understand but it’ll be sorted next week, we’re just waiting for …..” or “it’s in the post”. As human beings we want to hope for the best in people we know and ‘trust’ and this is where blind faith comes in. Even when all rational thought is crying out that something is not right you still *want* to believe that it is all going to be alright. Is this just blind faith or just a case of avoiding the reality….who knows. The next problem comes with the following saying:
“Business is business…..it’s never personal”
But it IS personal because that is what makes us different. After all, I know all of our clients personally so why would it not be personal? To remove that personal element would make us no different to any other IT business. Ultimately when things are great you are BUZZING but when they are not so great you will take it home at night. It will sit with you on the drive home, it will be there while you are watching TV, it will be niggling away at you as you go to sleep, it’ll be in the back of your mind while you read bedtime stories to your kids, it will keep niggling at you.
I’m afraid I don’t know what the answer is. If there was one single answer it would be to switch your emotional side and say “this is just business” but there are very few people who can do this and those that can have been to this ‘school of hard knocks’. For me the answer comes from those who I surround myself with, friends, fellow business owners. But probably the most relevant person of all is your wife/husband. They can be your voice of reason in a very methodical way and while you may not feel any better about whats happening it helps to know that someone close to you feels the pain with you.
Also, for me anyway, it helps to write posts like this and hope that my lessons may help someone else to not feel so isolated when it happens. No matter what happens you have to remember that there is no point in keeping a client that does not pay for the work/good supplied or takes well beyond their payment terms to settle their bill.
My pearl of wisdom…..surround yourself with people that will revel in your successes and be there for you when things are not so good. You know who those people are, you’re already friends.