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Someone once said "the client is always right no matter what", but you can set the tone by carefully managing client expectations. In true business terms, experience proves that the customer is king - but not always right.
l The kick-off
In initial sales meetings and project meetings, you, the business owner, need to set the tone for the relationship. Your job is to guide the client.
Let the client know upfront when you are available, how you plan to respond to emergencies, how often you will have face-to-face or telephone contact, and what the client can expect at the conclusion of the project. Do not wait for the contract-signing stage - clarity is required beforehand.
l Setting the record straight
What happens when the client feels free to call at all hours? As a business owner, it's up to you to manage your time. It's up to you to put the phone on to voice-mail when your workday is at an end. That's professional, and it's effective. Do not try to be nice by doing it at first and then suddenly decide to quit.
Your obligation is to check your messages first thing in the morning. If you're in a business where client emergencies are part of the business, then give out a cellphone number on a limited basis and clearly define in your contract what defines an emergency and whether you will be charging extra for emergency service.
l Letting go
And what if the client continues to demand more than that which you can offer? Then it may be time to show him the door. You should fire a client if you're not making money on the business and that client is not bringing you other business that would be profitable.
But when you do fire a client, do it nicely. It never pays to burn bridges.
l Do not offer the world
Many business owners, eager to please their clients, fall into the trap of promising too much. As a business owner, the best way to avoid this is to consider that every hour you give away is money your business is losing - check our time management article.