In the last two episodes of How to Destroy a Business Relationships, I talked about focusing on negative communication and not taking things personally. Today’s destroyer rears its ugly head when you try to guess what the other person is thinking. Destroyer #3 occurs when you make up stories about your customer or yourself. Every one of us is guilty when it comes to interpreting customers or what anyone says.
I was coaching Andy, a sole proprietor of a tax preparation and accounting service. Andy hung out his shingle one year prior to our meeting. He told me how much he appreciated the help I gave him and valued our time together. One theme we discussed was how to handle his irregular cash flow. His work was seasonal and cash pretty much dried up after tax season.
Our coaching sessions were held every other week. After each session, I would email Andy his bill. Our first two sessions were in January. Andy paid me at the end of January for the two sessions. The same thing happened in February. In March and early April, we met twice. I emailed my bill after each of the March and April sessions. By late April, I had not received a check from Andy.
Andy canceled his next session via email and wrote that he had to stop for a while He did not tell me why. Right before I received the email, I said to myself I would not see him until his bill was paid. I wondered what was going on. Why wouldn’t he pay? Why did he quit? So, I made up a story or two in my head about why Andy didn’t pay. After a few days of not getting a check in the mail and after making up some more stories about why he would not pay, I decided to email Andy, attach a copy of the bill, and ask him what was going on. I didn’t receive a reply. So, I made up more stories. “Maybe he didn’t value our work?”
A week later, I called him and left a message for him to call me. I was polite and just asked him to return my call. No response. It was now the first week in May, when Andy called back. He apologized for not getting back to me. He said he was completely overwhelmed during tax season. He sent me a check the next week for the full amount.
You are emotionally and financially invested in making your business succeed. You want to make the right decisions in order for your business to grow. It is easy to fall into the trap of interpreting what customers say when you are feeling vulnerable or anxious.