Success in small business often depends strongly on a business owner’s ability to set boundaries and limits with employees, vendors and customers. Business owners frequently say, “I’m having a hard time being ‘tough’ with people and holding them accountable because I do not want to be the bad guy.”
This is a common pitfall for business owners. They want their employees to like them so they overlook behaviors that seem to be minor at first, such as: showing up on time or following the company’s basic procedures. As a result of this lack of attention to behavior, employees slack off and the business may start to lose money.
When a business owner has poor boundaries with others they may not notice at first, or may think they are being easy-going and flexible. This behavior often has the opposite effect, when boundaries are too loose, employees and customers end up taking them for granted and lose respect for them.
Some of the signs a business owners boundaries need improving include:
-Making promises or commitments that are not kept
– An overcommitted schedule
– Employees don’t follow policies or directions.
– Lying or exaggerating about things going on in your business
Sacramento business owner, Richard Hassman, also known as “The Business Resource Guy,” has seen how a lack of boundaries can destroy a business.
“I’ve worked with many businesses where they have to reach out, outside of the company to get everything done because nobody inside the company has any effective authority with the hired employees. They’ve blurred the lines of communication by not having an effective chain of command,” Richard said, adding that this is more common in smaller businesses.
Limits and boundaries can be set or re-set, without having to turn into the proverbial “bad boss.” When boundaries are strong, business owners are more prepared for the surprises and chaos of daily business. It becomes much easier to deal with the problems that come up on a moment-to-moment basis.
Knowing employee and owner strengths and weaknesses also helps in deciding where to set boundaries. Hassman commented that in his own credit card processing business he used to spend time helping customers solve their technical issues, problems he says the company’s technical support was better equipped to handle.
“Instead of being out selling and meeting people, I was taking care of technical support, which slowed down the growth opportunity for my business,” Hassman added.
Even though setting boundaries feels awkward at first, and other people, may react negatively at first, it does get easier with practice and people will adjust and show more respect and consideration. Those who decide not to respect the new boundaries will eventually leave, which will benefit a business in the long run.