A lot of new entrepreneurs create a business out of the need to serve. Often coming from an altruistic place of giving. The problem with this is that when the day is done - you could be left out of the value loop. When you spend your days giving, giving, giving and leaving nothing left for yourself, you aren’t winning in business.
My friend, Kristin Jekielek, recently went through this with her business. She was always really busy helping other people, adding value at every opportunity, meeting impossible deadlines and doing everything her clients asked of her. Despite all of her efforts to grow her business, it was painfully stagnant. On top of zero growth, she was painfully burnt out.
Can you relate?
Kristin’s real problem wasn’t whether she was “cut out” for business, but a case of too much generosity, and too little selfishness. In business, this can be a big problem, as many of us are learning the hard way. hat Kristin relayed to me was that she finally got a little selfish and miraculously, her business started doing better. Sometimes allowing just enough selfishness into your business mindset will help you grow your company in several key ways.
Now, Kristin helps her clients fight burn out - and being selfish is one of the tools in her toolbox. Here are the insights shared with me when she got a little selfish.
1. Earn More Respect From Clients
"Even if it sounds counter-intuitive, clients benefit from our selfish need to set and maintain professional boundaries,” says Jekielek. In today’s world of always-on phones and constant access to email, we can feel pressure to keep ourselves available to clients 24/7. "When we establish a pattern of over-extending ourselves, clients begin to expect that level of treatment across the board, which can lead to unmet expectations when we want some much-deserved downtime,” she says.
Keep clients’ respect by establishing your boundaries upfront.
2. Say Yes Selectively
"Our business grows in alignment with the value we provide to our clients, so we can feel pressured to say yes to every client request. Instead of providing value at any cost (which usually means sacrificing your bottom line or your sanity), use your selfish side to evaluate ROI,” advises Jekielek.
Focus your efforts on the areas you can provide the biggest return to your clients, the things that you are uniquely qualified to crush. Make referrals for the other requests so you can keep a tight hold on your time and profit margin.
3. Say No More Often
"Clients usually have a clear vision of what they want or need, and sometimes we disagree. Since they’re bringing us in as the expert in our domain, it’s our job to share our professional opinion openly and to advise against courses of action that we view as counterproductive,” says Jekielek. "Even if they insist, it’s ok for us to bow out and say 'Then I’m not the right person to help you with this.’” Being clear about the work we do, and don’t do, is an extension of our brand.
It can be freeing to tell a client no, especially if it’s work we don’t want to do, aren’t passionate about or feel we aren’t very good at doing. Do, however, be helpful in recommending other service providers that can handle what they’re asking for.
Related: 6 Ways To Handle A Customer You Regret Taking On
4. Prioritize Tasks to Crush Your Goals
"Selfishness helps us stay focused on our biggest goals. If we aren’t careful, it’s easy to fill our calendars with busy work that won’t move the marker. By prioritizing our work according to our goals first, it helps us minimize time spent on other tasks, which can put ourselves where we want to be a year from today,” says Jekielek.
It’s ok to let some to-dos fall to the wayside if you feel it doesn’t support your overarching goals. Don’t feel guilty!
5. Fill Your Own Cup First
Selfishness isn’t only about focusing on ourselves. The truth is, it can feel really good to help others even when there isn’t a direct business benefit. And selfishness includes doing more of what leaves us feeling good. "They key is to first prioritize our business goals with our feel-good or value-based goals, and then plan our actions accordingly,” advises Jekielek. "This can look like committing a certain number of hours each month to pro-bono work, or to meeting certain income milestones before making a sizeable charitable donation."
You get to intentionally decide how much to give, after meeting your own needs. And pssst… it’s ok to meet your own needs first.
6. Do More of What Energizes You
"A fresh battery can power a flashlight to see further in the dark,” Jekielek reminds us. "In order to best serve the people in our lives, we need to protect and maintain our energy first. Being selfish is all about managing our energy. By living more selfishly, you can generate a bigger impact on more people - while building a highly respected and successful business.”
Being a little selfish not only helps you reach your goals, but also helps you to serve others in a big way.
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