When it comes to entrepreneurship, big or small business ownership, you hear the same advice all the time: Do what you say you are going to do, and you will succeed as a business owner. It sounds so easy, but the real problem is that most of us are terrible at managing expectations. Sometimes, we commit to things we are not fully capable of following through on, and it’s bad business advice to just do what you said you’d do regardless of the evolving circumstances.
If I tell somebody that I am going to do something, of course, I will do my best to do it, especially if there is money on the line. I’m not going to lie to my customers because of a moral dilemma. The problem is a step backward. How do we find ourselves in that situation where we lack the entrepreneurial skills to manage expectations? I ask this because when you are face to face with someone that wants to give you money, you have to deal with both the customer and being a business owner.
As the owner, or even an employee, you’re faced with the pressure of serving the customer because they’re the ones giving you business. If you are face-to-face with the client, of course you should do the work flawlessly–do what needs to be done–which is why when the customer looks at you and tells you what they want, there is nothing harder than telling them that you can’t make that happen.
We endlessly chase the requirements that we give ourselves, and at some point, we always fall behind. The advice that entrepreneurs should know is that when we get to this point, we need to know how to manage expectations with customers, and even ourselves. It’s one of the reasons why most entrepreneurs fail in business.
When someone asks you if you can come around 7 PM, we’re often in the habit of automatically responding with a “Yes, of course!” But there might be a delay on the way home, or something might come up that causes you to arrive later than the time mentioned. There is nothing wrong with giving a resounding “yes” while simultaneously giving the worst-case scenario. Take ownership over managing expectations–don’t roll out the red carpet. Give the lowest projected returns, risk, and potential delays. Talk about the downsides and the timing that goes along with that. This concept applies to every area of our lives, real estate, small businesses, customer relations, and sales.
Managing expectations is the key. Don’t be afraid to say no. If you can do this, you will have happier customers and will have a happier you because the pressure of meeting impossible expectations will be gone. The downside is that saying no is uncomfortable. It’s hard, but choosing wisely, and having the hard conversation sooner rather than later will save everyone disappointment and grief.
Three Key Takeaways
- Manage expectations. How often do we say we’re going to do something but end up getting delayed or unforeseen circumstances arise? Maybe it’s your work vehicle that breaks down, or a job takes longer to complete than expected. The truth is we’re terrible at managing expectations and often put ourselves into situations where we’re unable to keep our promises and commitments.
- Learn to say no. Be realistic, and know when you can’t meet an expectation. You may have to say no to a customer or even your boss. Let them know the potential risks and delays. Give them the lowest projected returns or other factors that will affect the timing and completion of a job.
- Saying no and managing expectations is uncomfortable. However, doing so will keep both your customers and yourself happier.
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