Tag Archives: Business

The Two-Day Truce: Reclaiming Respect for the Weekend

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

The Two-Day Truce Reclaiming Respect for the WeekendI can’t be the only one to confess that my blood pressure raises and eyes dilate when I hear the all too familiar “Ding!” of my phone when a new email comes in. I’m like one of Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, except instead of salivating, I’m overcome with the urge to immediately check my phone and respond instantly with an answer to or acknowledgement of the pending request. This mindset can make for a stressful week, but apply it to the 2-days we’re supposed to allow ourselves for rest and relaxation each weekend and this flirts on the brink of insanity.

As a new business owner, I’m told – this too shall pass. But what if it doesn’t? What if fate should have it that my obsession with instantaneous answers isn’t linked to my young entrepreneurship, but rather the growing trend in technology? Now we’re no longer flirting on the brink of insanity, we’re outright courting it with a fancy dinner and bottle of wine.

I can’t help but fantasize with the idea of living in a 1950’s office environment just for contrast. What was it possibly like to lock the door on your business at 5pm Friday and be unreachable until 9am Monday? Moreover, what was it like to wait around for a written memo to be passed from office to office until an answer was returned hours…or days later? The TV show Mad Men might give us a glimpse into this lifestyle, but we will never truly know what it is like to live it. What some might see as a business-stifling, slow communication process, I see as the key to a work-life balance. With the aid of ever-connecting technology, we have officially become accessible at all hours of the day and so we have trained ourselves, and our peers, to expect immediate responses regardless of weekends, holidays and once in a lifetime occasions like weddings, funerals and even the birth of our own children.

I acknowledge that I’m somewhat at fault for this. I check emails on my phone with the same repetition in which I breathe or blink. And answering emails on the weekend only encourages conversation because I voluntarily make myself accessible. So this weekend it stops. I want that 2-day break; I earned that 2-day break – and so did you. So why do we continue to choose to watch our phones rather than watch a movie with our significant other? Why do we use our weekends to pitch to a potential client when we could be pitching to our son or nephew on a beautiful sunny day?

Let’s call a truce. Let’s work hard this week so we can designate this weekend for rest and relaxation. But I can’t do it alone. I challenge each of you to limit your emails this weekend to urgent communication only. Ask yourself, “Can it wait until Monday?” And then get out there and enjoy an entire Saturday and Sunday to yourself. Lock your email, just as you would your office door, at 5pm on Friday and open it again Monday at 9am. I promise you that calling a Two Day Truce, won’t result in the demise of your business, but more likely will result in allowing others to also reclaim the respect for their own weekend.

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Posted by on October 5, 2015 in Business & Success, Life


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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!


Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Business & Success, Time Management


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6 Valuable Lessons I Learned from Working from Home

6 Valuable Lessons I Learned from Working from Home

As I enter my fifth year of running my own Public Relations business from the comfort of my home, I got to thinking about how this experience is so vastly unique compared to the few years I spent working in a traditional office environment.

I made the entrepreneurial leap not that long after graduating college, which means I truly have limited knowledge as to what it’s like to work a 9-5 job from an office building. However, I make up for my lack of cubicle-life experience with the many valuable lessons I’ve gained from running a successful business under the same roof in which I raise my family.

There are pros, there are cons and there is no shortage of comical experiences I could share, but for now I want to focus on these six important lessons I learned from working from home.

You still need to structure your day

When you work from home, you can structure your day however best fits your personality and workload, but the key is that you must still incorporate structure of some type. I like to get up early to catch up on emails and knock any daily, reoccurring tasks off my list right away. I then spend time with my family and get them on their way before I use the rest of my morning to tackle my biggest and most pressing tasks of the day.

I break my big to-do list down into the must-do’s for each day of the week. I set realistic expectations for the day and try my hardest to reach them before taking a break or doing something off task. This is the structure that works best for me.

In a work-from-home environment, failing to plan is planning to fail. You need to be very clear about what you plan to get out of each day and keep yourself accountable to this task list.

Some of the “perks” of working from home are better in theory

Sure, when you work from home you can multitask and clean or do laundry, you can also sneak in a workout anytime of the day. I have found that these “perks” can backfire and disrupt my day if I am not careful. People who work in a traditional office environment can more easily push these household or personal tasks out of mind because they are out of sight. Sometimes I too need to let these wait until my off-hours so I don’t waste my workday doing things that aren’t related to my clients.

Another perk that is better in theory? Having endless access to snacks. I really have to use self-control to not dive into those leftover brownies or grab a snack because I’m bored. When I worked in an office, I only ate what I packed for the day and was able to more easily stay away from the break room.

You have to be intentional about separating work and personal time

My home is my office and my office is my home. You can’t be the commute, but the flip side is sometimes it can be hard to switch from work mode to family mode. If I leave my laptop open on the kitchen island, I tend to check emails and try to work ahead on work tasks when really I should be focused on quality time with my family.

Other people get to leave their work and worries at the office. When you work from home, you don’t have this obvious separation so you must be intentional about leaving your virtual office for the evening. Most everything can wait until the morning!

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Because I work from home and set my own schedule, I can sleep in, watch reruns of my favorite TV show, do some online shopping and run errands that are completely unrelated to my client work. But this doesn’t mean I should do these things. I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder to see what I’m working on, which is all the more reason to be accountable to myself.

No matter where you work, you still have to do work to keep your job. Taking a little break to indulge in a guilty pleasure is not only a perk of working from home, it’s a necessity for keeping your sanity. But be sure to balance what you can do with what you should do.

Fight to not revert back to “cube life”

It’s surprising to me how so many people who fight for the freedom to work from home still manage to recreate all the crappy parts of a traditional office workspace. I once worked for a company that was completely virtual, yet made all their employees sign into skype between 9 and 5. We were expected to be strapped to our computers during this time unless we “made an announcement” via the online chat that we were getting lunch, going to the gym or heading to the bathroom. That’s not only as bad as a traditional office workspace – that’s worse!

My lesson here is embrace your freedom to work from a local coffee shop one day and your back porch the next. I know I said to need to structure your day, but this doesn’t mean every day has to be the same. Maybe this means one day you tackle tasks early so you can take an afternoon nap and the next day you close up shop early to head out of town for a long weekend. Most importantly, never take a job where you feel obligated to announce to your coworkers that you’re stepping away from your computer to take a shower.

Even introverts need human interaction

Finally and most importantly, working from home can be a very isolating experience. The majority of the time I love the peace and solitude of my house during the work day when the only sounds are the clicking of my keyboard. But there are other times when I really wish I had a cube-mate to engage in some casual conversation when I’m feeling stressed.

As an introvert, it feels ironic to admit that I need human interaction from time to time to energize me. This is why I attend weekly networking meetings and scatter client meetings and phone calls throughout the week to ensure I get just the right dose of time with real people before I retreat back to the sanctuary of my home office.

Do you work from home? What life lessons has this experience taught you? Share your thoughts by commenting below!


Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Business & Success


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Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Technology is a help as much as it is a hindrance. While we have used countless forms of technology to fuel our efficiency, organization, communication with one another and the way we impact the world,  we have also lost some essential and valuable skills along the way.

What skills have suffered? Mostly our people skills and soft skills, but also a few others you might not expect! Let’s take at a look at the 11 skills that technology is killing and see if they apply to you as well.


I certainly hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t recognize my own handwriting on the rare occasion I need to send a written letter or jot down some notes. There are really limited instances that don’t allow for a keyboard to make our thoughts legible. While technology certainly provides ease and efficiency of writing, quality penmanship has become a lost art.

Why does this matter? There will always be instances when a pen and pencil yield a more “personal” product, like a thank you note. There will also be times when we simply will run out of battery or WiFi and need to ask for some paper to capture important thoughts.

Eye contact

We have the ability to communicate with more people than ever on a daily basis. Yet, this has made these countless interactions feel less personal. Contributing your opinion to an online thread of thousands of comments is nowhere near as direct and meaningful as a face-to-face conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. I’ve found that people are so engrossed in their technology, catching up on email or social networks as they walk to and from their next destination, that they forget to look up and see the “real life” people standing around them.

The result? We forgot to look into someone’s eyes when we are talking to them. Do you greet your cashier by looking him in the eye and asking “How are you?” Do you keep eye contact with someone as they answer your question? If not, these are all areas we should strive to improve by unplugging from technology and plugging into one another.

The art of small talk

For most career-minded individuals, networking and meeting new people is essential for growing your business. This often means making a lot of small talk. But quality small talk requires more than just asking someone the obligatory “How are you today?” or commenting on the weather. It requires attention to the situation and nonverbal cues that tell us what will engage that person.

Technology has distracted and disconnected us from the living, breathing world around us so much that we have lost the valuable skill of being able to have an off-the-cuff conversation with a complete stranger.

Basic math

I am not too proud (though embarrassed) to admit that my basic math skills are severely lacking. Funny enough, I do still know my times tables and have not forgotten how to add or subtract. What I’ve lost is my confidence and patience to do the work mentally. Why? Because of technology. Why spend twice the time coming up with an answer I am only 50% sure is correct when I can just whip out my phone, punch in some numbers and have full confidence in the right answer?

This, of course, is a dangerous mindset and one that will continue to spread from generation to generation as technology only becomes increasingly convenient and ever-present. The solution is not easy, but it can start with each of us personally. We should take pride in keeping our basic math skills sharp and utilize them even if it means taking a few extra minutes and double-checking our answers.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the modern day way to say common courtesy. As the result of our obsession with and reliance upon technology, we forget there are other humans around us. The most common examples I’ve come across are people forgetting to hold the door, stepping in front of a line of waiting customers and cutting people off with a grocery cart.

While these are simple scenarios, they do indicate a larger social problem. We are so consumed in our own (online) lives that we ignore the need to courtesy coexist with one another.

Committing things to memory

If you were without your cell phone and needed to call your closest friends and family, would you know their phone numbers by memory? Probably not! I know I have exactly two phone numbers memorized aside from my own, my childhood home phone and my husband’s cell. This means I couldn’t even call my own parents’ cell phones without referencing my contact list.

Technology is a great tool for storing important information and phone numbers are just one of countless examples. But think about how we also Google everything imaginable – even common things like the meaning of an acronym or the year WWII began. If we lost access to all technology, would we, as adults, be “smarter than a 5th grader?” I’m not so sure.

Appreciating silence

This skill is one I really see the importance of as an introvert, yet I don’t always practice it. Think of your work environment. Do you always need some sort of background noise like a radio or TV? When walking from one place to another, do you feel the desire to talk to someone on the phone or pop in your headphones? When is the last time you did anything (aside from sleeping) in complete silence for more than an hour?

Appreciating silence is an important skill because it forces us to clear out the mental clutter, listen to our thoughts and address issues that might be bugging us. All of these things are easily masked by technology and noise – but will cause stress and distraction if not given proper attention.

Feeling comfortable without “props”

Similarly to feeling uncomfortable in complete silence, how do you react to waiting for someone or something without any technology to distract you? I know if I am waiting for a client, a food order or to be called back for an appointment, I feel the need to read emails, check in on social media or catch up on texts.

There’s a level of efficiency with this, but that is soon fulfilled within a few minutes. The issue is when we aimlessly browse our phones or tablets as a distraction from the world around us. The next time you’re waiting for someone to meet you in a coffee shop, enjoy sipping your coffee and watching the real world unfold. It’s amazing what you’ll see that you would have missed otherwise!

Making plans and sticking to them

When making social plans on the weekend, I’ve often wondered what people did before cell phones when it came to changing plans or running late. From asking enough of my “older peers,” I’ve come to the conclusion that people simply did a better job of sticking to their original plans!

Thanks to technology we have the ability to endlessly change where we’re going, at what time and with whom. If you’re on the receiving end of all of these changes it’s frustrating to say the least. Back before cell phones and social media, once people left the house, they were expected to be where they said they were going – and they really made a better effort of honoring that.

Fully focusing on one thing

Using multitasking to be more efficient with your time is a huge myth. Why? We’re not machines. We cannot quickly or easily switch from one task to another without losing momentum in the process. When we multitask and try to do too many things at once, we don’t fully accomplish anything.

Technology has created an environment where it’s easy to multitask and pile on distraction upon distraction. One time I caught myself watching TV while surfing my iPad. I couldn’t remember what show I was watching and I had minimal recollection of what I was looking at on social media. Trying to multitask my leisure time was a moment of reckoning for me. We need to get back to applying our sole focus to one thing at a time, doing it well and moving on to the next task with a clear mind.

Feeling content

Finally and most importantly, our reliance upon technology has messed with our ability to feel content. This is a bold claim, but one I strongly believe is true. How do you feel when you surf social media? In seeing other people’s lives (which are inevitably a carefully framed highlight reel of the truth), how do you feel about your own? Recently there have been more and more times that I have felt worse after browsing social media – not relaxed or entertained, like I had hoped.

Technology provides us a big, open window into each other’s’ lives. As we peer through, we can’t help but compare what we see to our own reality. Using technology for this purpose fuels jealously, discontent and stress. The skill we really need to strengthen is our ability to be happy for one another while being equally happy for ourselves. We are all blessed in different ways!

Has the overuse of technology hindered some of these valuable skills for you personally? Or does this apply to someone you know? Share your experiences by commenting below!


Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Life


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How to Gear Up for Your Busy Season

How to Gear Up for Your Busy SeasonIt pains me to admit that my favorite season, summer, is coming to a close. As we look toward September and beyond, this can often appear to be a black hole of project deadlines, obligations and even more juggling of family activities. Somehow we need all of these things to fit into the same 24 hours in a day we expected so much less out of throughout the summer. It’s a recipe for stress, overwhelm and depression if we are not careful.

The good news is there are a ton of good things that come from your busy season – greater productivity, achievement and organization just to name a few. It’s a great opportunity to wake up and show what we’re truly capable of, but we must be careful to also be realistic with the expectations we have for our schedules and to strategically plan out moments of happiness and relaxation as well.

Take a look at these top tips I highly recommend taking to heart if you hope to make this your most successful – and most manageable – busy season yet!

Start with the big things

Looking at a laundry list of to-items that have to all make it to your calendar can be overwhelming to say the least. But remember that not all of these tasks share the same urgency and importance as one another. Some may simply not even need to be addressed during your busy season at all. Others can be delegated to another staff member or outsourced.

Start by populating your calendar with the “big” events or deadlines that are firmly set. Once you are able to see how these shake out, you can fill in your next level of important items, strategically scheduling them on days and weeks that another big event does not land. If you take care of the big things first, the little things will more easily fall into place.

Map it out long-term

Next, look at the big picture. If you know your busy season runs approximately three months, look at these three months side by side. Based upon your list of priority to-do’s, looking at just one month at a time may tempt you to overload that first month with as many tasks as possible, when that simply isn’t necessary. If a meeting or event can be pushed a month or two down the road with no major repercussions – push it! Just because you can get something done this week or this month, doesn’t mean it has to get done this week or this month. Stretch out your busy season…and maximize your sanity.

Gear up slowly

“Diving in head first” is a phrase we commonly hear in business. Sure, there are some occasions that call for you to jump right in without hesitation or second guessing. But for your busy season, which you can reasonably see boiling to a peak on your calendar, ease into your new schedule gradually.

If you know you will need to get up (a lot) earlier in the mornings to fit in some extra work time, transition your body by getting up just 15 minutes or a half hour early a few days at a time. If you can remember the agony of the sound of your alarm on the first day of school, avoid this by conditioning your body slowly to the “joy” of functioning early in the morning. Apply this theory to working through your lunch hour or getting in a few extra hours before bed. See what works best for you and stick to it!

Say “No”

The activities you enjoyed during your “slower” months, like social coffee meetings or writing daily posts on your personal blog, may need to be moved to your back burner as you gear up for your busy season. These are worthy time commitments when you aren’t overloaded with other client work, but when you hit that crazy time of the year, pull back on these items and focus foremost on the things that are directly making you money. Learning to say “no” now will save you stress and overwhelm in the coming weeks.

Avoid busyness

There is a big difference between being productive and being busy. The first means you’re tackling priorities, making money and delivering results to clients. Busyness means you’re filling your schedule with tasks that simply aren’t priority or don’t need you immediate attention. This relates back to the advice of “just say no.” Be ruthless with your schedule and only take on tasks that are a productive use of your time.

Schedule time for relaxation, personal development and social activities

Having just mentioned everything I did about prioritizing your time with big, important, money-making tasks, I’m also going to stress the importance of strategically scheduling downtime. How is both possible, you say? Put it on your calendar like any other appointment that’s filling your time that week. Make planned relaxation, personal development and social activities part of your busy season, too. Yes, you may need to scale back from what you would normally get to do during your slower months, but personal time is so important for keeping your sanity and preserving your happiness.

Give yourself “carrots” along the way

Speaking of happiness, I strongly suggest dangling some “carrots” in front of yourself to keep you motivated and engaged in your work. Busy seasons are a welcome change because they often result in greater cash flow, but no amount of increased income is worth burning yourself out for months on end. Once you achieve a certain deadline, celebrate with a dedicated afternoon off. Or reward yourself with a rerun of your favorite TV show if you work hard to knock off your biggest task before noon. Too many rewards will undermine your hard work and self-control, but the right balance will keep you refreshed and focused.

Be realistic with your expectations!

Finally, get real with what you’re expecting of yourself over the coming months. The most spectacularly color-coded calendar, planned out by the hour means nothing if it’s completely unreasonable for a human to achieve. We are not robots and even when we need to be functioning on all cylinders, we still need to ease up on ourselves when the mood calls for it. Get honest with your personality type, work style and capabilities – remember to also extend the same consideration to those helping you through your busy season.

Are you preparing to enter a busy season this fall? Share how you plan to prepare yourself to successfully manage this new schedule by commenting below!


Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Business & Success


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How to Professionally Fire a Client

How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”

The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!

The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.

The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.

The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.

The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 


Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Business & Success


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Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

Taking a Cue from Mother NatureSo often in life, nature is something we first try to change and then try equally as hard to replicate. I might be among the worst offenders of this. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time, cut-out the waste and cram in just one more hour’s worth of work somewhere, somehow. But time and time again, this haste has led me to mistakes, accidents and set-backs that in the end required more of my time than if I had just tried to do things right in the first place. Just a few days ago I was inspired by the Lao Tzu quote, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Ancient philosophers have quite a knack for making the most obvious statements while lining them with an intensely deep meaning that changes your world in a matter of seconds. And with this quote, I began to reexamine the perceived benefit of rushing through life’s tasks.

I can recall countless instances where rushing has cost me valuable time and caused unnecessary frustration. In the morning, I always feel like I’m saving time by multi tasking while brushing my teeth, but when toothpaste ends up on clothes and carpets, I spend more time cleaning up a mess that would otherwise have not been created. One specific morning, I was reaching for a canister of oatmeal with one hand and opening a drawer to grab a spoon with the other, when the entire canister came crashing to the floor. I lost about 20 minutes that day sweeping up oatmeal all for the possibility of saving a few extra seconds. Aside from a few messes here and there, rushing while driving to a meeting, proof-reading an important document or balancing my finances could lead to consequences far more severe. I suppose the underlying point is – how much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?

In looking to nature for examples, I realized far more important tasks are accomplished every day, moving at the exact same pace they have been for all time. There’s something to be said for steady and consistent progress. Flowers bloom, animals migrate and weather changes just as it should to keep everything else moving in harmony. Could you imagine if just one piece of this puzzle were to rush its role? Everything else would be thrown off to create repercussions almost unimaginable. Most interesting of all is that we might be the only species inclined to rush. Where does this pressure come from? Why do we feel like what we accomplish in the time we’re given is never enough? I’m sure we can each answer this based upon different reflections, but what’s important is that we stop rushing long enough to at least ask.

In my own life, I can easily pick out the almost comical examples of how I try to change nature, just to replicate it. Our natural state is what we first try to improve upon, but ultimately use as our model for perfection. Just last week I spent a day rushing through my to-do list, feeling overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. My reason for the rush? I wanted to have time to do yoga that afternoon so I could “unwind and de-stress.”  My new goal is to take a cue from Mother Nature and find a pace at which I’m making steady and consistent progress. For a serial multi-tasker this will be hard habit to break, but if it allows me to find more moments of clarity and contentment to appreciate the natural perfection of the world around me, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

One of my favorite photos of Scott and me in front of Penn State’s Old Main Building. Every year, these flowers bloom in perfect harmony with spring and summer on campus.


Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Life, Wisdom


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