Avoiding difficult situations isn’t the key to long-term success. Learning from the challenge and moving on from them effectively is.

  • Setting and adhering to boundaries can be hard for small-business owners who aim to please their customers no matter what.

  • Every challenge is a learning experience that can make you more resilient as a business owner.

  • Treating setbacks as temporary – and even as an essential part of the process – will help you get back out there doing what you do best.

  • Keep your word – if you know you can’t commit then renegotiate. Always stay accountable.

When handling clients don’t promise the best-case scenario, instead promise the other party you will simply give it your all and try your best. 

There is no need to walk on eggshells and “people please.” 

People pleasing can be a learned behavior from childhood that stems from wanting to please the authority figures in your life to keep an “even keel” and not create friction – the irony is that people-pleasing in your adult life and your business creates more friction in the long run.

If you can’t make a commitment then be up-front, it will save you a lot of frustration down the line. If you will be late on a deadline then let your client know. If you think you can get it done, promise you will try your best but don’t make large guarantees.

The golden rule of all service businesses is underpromising and overdelivering. 

Expectation management will be your key to referral business and reputation. If you keep your expectations with your clients in check then they will give you great ratings because they trust you. Trust is multi-faceted, but it’s predominantly an aspect of character: nothing more than doing what you say you will do.

Be impeccable with your word and honor your word.

If you’ve run a business for any length of time you’ve probably dealt with your share of challenging clients. Some may have shaken you down for not meeting their expectations, even after delivering exactly what they asked for. Always take ownership and look for where you went wrong in your process. Did you overpromise?

In the human experience, others may be inconsistent in how they communicate with you, leaving you with the responsibility of ensuring a meeting of the minds does occur. You need feedback on the work you deliver and you need agreements on payments.

How you handle it can come down to perspective and intention.

If your intention is service and harmony that is 90% of the battle.

Your clients will see your intention to serve if it’s there.

Some business owners can let the challenges that arise make them cynical, while others can find ways to transcend the negativity in order to distill the lesson that further improves and inspires them.

Everything is a learning opportunity and nothing to be ashamed of.

If you harness the spirit of cooperation deep within you then nothing can hold you back. Every communication challenge will be solved so that all parties are happy.

What separates the growth-minded entrepreneurs from the cynics? 

Quite simply, those that see the positive in every situation. Those that prefer progress over perfection.

If your sales or business process is causing friction for the client or your team, it will continue to cause friction until it’s fixed. That’s just the reality of the situation, neither good nor bad, just the reality.

This approach of integrating feedback and data is no different than machine learning. See what’s working and what isn’t working in your process. Delete the excess and focus more on what’s working.

Once you see the better process, integrate it into your SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) so that everyone on your team knows the new approach.

Owning and Growing from Mistakes

We are all human, and inevitably there will be times when we mess up – that’s okay. As Frank Sinatra says, that’s life.

Making a mistake can feel embarrassing, shameful, and defeating – especially when you have no one to blame but yourself. But despite how uncomfortable that is, all of the growth is in the ownership of the mistake.

It’s important not to allow one incident to destroy your confidence or your belief that you are a competent professional. Instead of ruminating on the thing that went wrong, consider instead the number of things you’ve done right. Your perspective is always in your control.

Expecting perfection and beating yourself up when you don’t achieve it is irrational. As long as you own the mistake, make whatever fixes are necessary, and do things differently next time, there’s nothing more you can ask of yourself.

As Silicon Valley all-star Naval Ravikant says, “There’s no actual skill called business, it’s too generic. It’s like a skill called ‘relating.’ Like ‘relating to humans.’ That’s not a skill, it’s too broad.”

Every challenge is a learning experience that makes you stronger and more resilient as a business owner.

Rely on your mastermind or network of fellow business owners when difficult situations do occur.

Mastermind and work through any challenging business situation until a resolution is in clear sight.

Ask for support like your business depends on it. Be vulnerable enough to surround yourself with a support system. Seek the support of your fellow mastermind members and never be afraid to ask for guidance in any area of your life.

Everything is a lesson if you can see it that way. Leave enough flexibility in your operating model to pivot when you encounter a roadblock.

Treat setbacks as temporary—and even an essential part of the process. Trust that process and that will help you shake off and get back out there doing what you do best. And perhaps in a year or two you’ll even recall the situation and laugh.