First published on the ABN Her Business Blog
Business professionals who provide a service, like accountants, fall into two camps – those who care about you as a client and those who care about the money.
That’s not to say you can’t care about both – of course a good business person must care about money – but it shouldn’t be the driving factor for why they work with you. I think you see a great distinction between those who care about their clients and those who care about their money.
Those people who care about providing you with a service care about your business, how it’s working for you and how they’re able to help you. These are the people you hang onto for dear life, because they’re such a rarity. Yes, you pay them, and yes, you’re probably paying them good money, and so you should, but there’s a distinct difference between those who are in it for the money, and those who really care about how what they’re doing is impacting your business.
So how can we, as service professionals, ensure that we are coming across as those who do care? Being authentic and vulnerable with your clients is how you show this. It’s all about getting naked. I read a great book recently called Getting Naked, by Patrick Lencioni, and he showed there was no longer that stiff client relationship we were programmed to keep up. It’s not, “Oh that’s a client, stand back, that’s a client,” anymore. Yes, we’re still professional, but clients can become really great friends. And that is how business works now; it’s a business reality. The advantage small business owners have is we are able to develop a real relationship with our clients.
It’s so fantastic we can do that, and it makes business so much more fun. The more we show we’re human, that we make mistakes, we’ve missed something, or we’ve forgotten something, the deeper that relationship gets. Obviously the best idea is that this doesn’t happen, but in reality, it does. Some might say it’s unprofessional, but the more I have opened up with my clients, the more they respect that not only am I providing them with a service, but I am a business owner with my own struggles, my family, my life. Sometimes, unfortunately, these things will impact the service I’m providing.
So, the more honest you are in your business and with clients and the more you get naked, the more real you can be. We all tend to wear a mask by maintaining professionalism at any cost, but by doing this we really miss out on so much.
Of course there’s room for professionalism, I’m not saying there’s not. There’s still a need for boundaries, but sometimes when you think, “I’d really like to say this” or, “I’d really like to make this gesture,” but you don’t because it’s not professional, try going with the first thought. You might be able to take the relationship you have with your client to the next level, just because you overrode that ‘sticking to professionalism’ thought.
I’m not saying we’re going to stalk each other on Facebook or ring at various times throughout the day; I’m talking about just taking that relationship further. The more relationships you have in your business and life that are true and authentic, the more we develop as a community and the more we can help each other.
That’s what caring about your clients is all about. If you open up about something it might lead your client to say, “I’m having that same problem”. But unless you have been vulnerable, they would not have felt they could share that with you.
So do you care about your clients or are you just in it for the money? I know where I fit and how I help my clients. Are you going to get naked with me?