Setting Expectations: 4 Tips for Business Owners

Probably the most important principle in business is learning to set expectations. Between employees, non-employee resources, customers, prospects, and family members, a business owner has a lot of expectations to manage. It’s crucial that all of those expectations get set and maintained correctly for any business to function. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and what to expect from you, and that can be overwhelming. That is why most small business owners tend to avoid setting expectations and just pray that they don’t end up with a customer or employee that eats up all of their time and resources because of poorly set expectations.

Newsflash: you can’t afford to not take this head on.

Here are a few tips to help you get started with this:

It all starts at home

Your family and your business will always be fighting for your attention. It’s very important that each of them understand clearly not only when you will be there, but also when you won’t be. Your family deserves your full attention when you’re there, and your business deserves (and demands) your full attention when you’re there. If you’re going to give your full attention to both business and family, you have to have time designated just for work and time designated just for family, and work needs to know to leave you alone when you’re with family, and family needs to know to leave you alone when you’re at work.

Set boundaries for both family and work, and make sure everyone understands those boundaries very clearly.

Use your words

Contracts don’t really help anything if the important details aren’t made clear before the work starts. All that fine print doesn’t help you avoid the headache of the misunderstanding. Just open your mouth and explain the expectations. Have a face-to-face with your family, employees, and even customers and tellthem what to expect.

The best defense is a good offense

You will be much happier if you avoid the problems that arise from miscommunicated expectations. If you can preempt those problems by setting the expectations well before any work is actually done, you will save yourself countless hours and stress in the long run.

Don’t be afraid

“Setting expectations” in the business sense basically means telling people that you’re going to say no to them in the future about something. Don’t be afraid of this. If you’ve warned them well beforehand that it’s going to happen, they’ll be expecting it, so they won’t be upset about it. If you don’t warn them, then it will come as a surprise. Can you think of anyone in your life that would be happy to receive an unexpected “No” from you? I seriously doubt it.


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