“Can you give me a proposal?”
A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with several small business owners. The topic up for discussion: tough clients. As we went around the table trading horror stories, my friend Kacy Paide came to mind.
Kacy owns the Inspired Office and has one of best FAQ sections I’ve seen on a business website. It’s great because she dares to do what most business owners don’t: provide a detailed description of the personal characteristics of her ideal clients.
What personality do you work best with?
Please be able to visualize improvement, be optimistic, find humor in your shortcomings, take advice from an expert, offer self-introspection as to why you are the way you are, have demonstrated ability to implement new habits, recognize when you’re making excuses, and be widely known in your circle as a very nice person. This last one is a must, as we’ll be spending a lot of time together. I’m nice too by the way.
Personality IS included
See what I mean? It’s bold and honest. It makes complete sense. Personality has a huge impact on work. Defining the characteristics of the clients that inspire your best work allows you to seek out similar clients. Working with clients that are the right fit not only improves your potential for success, but also increases the likelihood that your clients will recommend you to others of a similar mind set.
Does “nice” really matter?
Okay, so it’s all well and good to say you want clients that are “nice people,” but does it work?
According to Kacy, it has:
“I had already worked with about 200 clients before defining my niche. Writing the content for my website was probably the best exercise in defining my niche and ideal client even further. It acts as both a filter and a magnet. When the phone rings, I know they’ve already self selected themselves. The FAQ and About You pages are written so that my perfect professional match can read it and recognize themselves immediately.”
Looking through the mirror
To take it a step further, Kacy’s FAQ allows potential clients to take a peak inside the culture of her company. Corporate culture is a frequent topic of business books and essays. And, yet, when it comes to defining a corporate culture, big companies often miss the mark by writing mission statements that list ideals but not tangible terms.
One of the advantages of working for yourself is that your “personal culture” sets the tone for your business, and as that business grows you have the power to cultivate the environment (clients included) that are the best fit.
Reclaim your power
Doing so requires a power shift though, from your clients back to yourself. It requires that you say no to the majority. But in saying no to the majority, you say yes to a more select group.
The advantage is that you waste less time doing the things you hate (managing personalities that are the wrong fit, for instance) and more time doing what you love with clients you love.
It IS about you… and that’s ok
It also requires that you give potential clients a window into your world. Your website is that window. Be bold. Dare to write a precise description of the clients you want. You’re not going to work with just anyone, you’re going to work with…
… You fill in the blank.
- Katie Kemple’s leadership series on Women Grow Business
- Jana Matthews and SBTV.com on corporate culture in your small business
- How CSN Stores, LLC, avoids corporate culture (great read in the Wall Street Journal)
- Seth Godin on whether you should take what you should get
Photo: Tory Paide
Guest post by Katie Kemple, producer of the Women Grow Business leadership series. With an extensive background in radio, television and communications, she holds an Executive Master’s in Leadership from Georgetown University, and is the online community manager for Public Media’s Economy Story. Katie believes in the power of positive thinking (plus embracing failure as a path to success). She can be reached via Twitter @kkemple.