Setting Boundaries for Your Small Business | Dynamic Marketing San Diego

Setting Boundaries as a Small Business Owner | Dynamic Marketing San Diego

There are certain phrases that have always irritated me. As soon as someone utters, “Let’s put it on the docket,” or  “you need to set boundaries/manage expectations,” I’ve always shuddered. 

For the purpose of this blog post, I really wish I could come up with another way to describe“setting healthy boundaries” for your small business. But for whatever reason, I’ve got nothing. 

As much I hate hearing that phrase for some irrational reason, setting boundaries in my business is something I cannot operate without. Being a small business owner or operating a startup means you have wear a lot of hats. When I first got started, I maintained by corporate customer service habits and felt pressured to be available 24/7. I'd fire away emails at late hours, answer phone calls before 8am, take meetings after 6pm, etc. It didn't take me long to realize that those habits lead to burn out...quickly. 

In today’s mobile-first culture, anyone and everyone can reach us almost 24/7. But that doesn’t mean we should let them. It’s possible to have excellent customer service while maintaining  boundaries to keep your efficiency and mental state in check.

Setting physical, emotional and mental boundaries in my business has saved my energy and vitality. It has increased my happiness and capacity to do good work. By being mindful of the boundaries that I need to be successful, I feel it bleeding into my personal life without much effort of my own…and we all know we could use these tactics with certain friends and/or family members.

Alright, I’ll get to it. Here are my thoughts on setting boundaries as a small business owner or entrepreneur so you don’t lose your mind.

You don’t have to be available all the time.

Almost anyone can share their opinions with you and connect with you 24/7. This can put unnecessary pressure to be “on” all the time. As a business owner, you have to be more careful with your time than most. That being said, if you are giving all of your clients and employees direct access to your cell phone, don’t complain when it rings off the hook. Be selective about who can reach you on your personal device. Not all clients need to have access to this number either. It is perfectly acceptable to communicate to your clients that the best way to reach you is via email. Or to set up an answering service. There are plenty of free services like that.

 It’s also perfectly acceptable to not answer your phone when calls come in unexpectedly. Choosing to not answer your phone does not reflect poorly on your customer service. You are serving your customers the best when you choose to spend your time as efficiently as possible. Plus, if there is a work emergency, the caller will leave a voicemail. If they don’t, it wasn’t an emergency.

Email is another time sucker. You don’t need to answer emails immediately. This is a common habit that needs to be broken. Communicate to your clients and employees the expected turnaround time when sending you an email. This could be anywhere from 24-72 hours. It’s up to you and your specific business. My clients know that email is the best way to reach me, and they expect a 24 hour turn around time. I no longer feel the need to stop what I’m doing every time I get an email. That was quickly draining me from efficiency as it stopped me dead in my tracks and distracted me from real work that I needed to do. Now, I check emails twice a day. Once mid-morning after I get through my most important tasks and projects, and once around 4pm. That’s it.

Set Up Normal Office Hours

It’s easier said than done, I know. But it’s important for business owners to try to abide by normal business hours. My schedule never tends to look the same, but Monday through Friday is typically scheduled 9a-6pm [for the most part.] The freedom and flexibility you have a business owner means you can work around the clock, but sticking to a normal routine definitely helps establish that coveted work/life balance. 

It’s OK to Say No

If you’re reading this and you are a people pleaser, you’re not alone. I’ve spent almost my entire life people pleasing. Starting my business taught me that saying no is OK and in fact, a really good thing. It demonstrates responsibility and earns respect when you say no in most cases. If work comes your way and the client doesn’t feel like a fit, it is in both of your best interests to turn the work away. You will save yourself a lot of stress in the long run by only working with your ideal clients - and kindly referring the ones that you don’t wish to work with, to someone else who might be a better fit for them.

Don’t Take on Everything Yourself

Just because you CAN do everything related to your business, and probably better than anyone else, doesn’t mean you should. Learn how to delegate tasks that are outside your area of genius. You’ll be far more productive and happy by giving away some of the burden of your business. When doing this, however, it’s important to understand that delegated work likely will not have the same level of detail and perfection as it did when you were in control of it. I’ve met so many business owners throughout my career and many of them have told me, “no one will ever do your work as good as you can, but that's not sustainable.” Give up control, delegate, and truly walk away trusting that the work will get done.

Avoid Useless Meetings

This goes back to managing your time effectively. Avoid pointless meetings and don’t be afraid to say no. Before agreeing to a meeting, ask yourself these two simple questions:

  1. Is the objective of this meeting clearly defined?
  2. Can the objective be met virtually?  [phone or email]

Have Workspaces You Love

Set yourself up with a nice workspace at home that makes you feel inspired. This space should be free of clutter and separate from other living spaces in your home. Your home office should be your personal work sanctuary that you can go to and completely focus. Avoid working from the living room or dining room table, because it blurs the lines between work and personal life.

Also, scope out 1-3 spaces outside of the home that you enjoy working at. Find coffee shops or restaurants with great wifi and make sure to schedule time away from your home office. I find that getting out of my office when I have deadlines or really creative projects pending, that I am able to focus more because I am outside of my bubble. Plus, there just this vibe in coffee shops that really enhances work-mode. Try it out! 

Those are my tips for setting boundaries in your small business to increase your efficiency, happiness and state of mind. I’d love to hear some boundaries that you’ve had to set in order to keep yourself on track. I’m always looking for ways to grow and improve. Share any thoughts, ideas, or comments below!