On a recent trip to the home improvement store I passed through the fencing department. I was surprised to see so many styles, shapes, and privacy choices, afterall, isn’t the purpose to mark a boundary line? Why have more than one option? Doesn’t one-size-fit-all?

Then I realized these fences were as diverse as those used for defining business boundaries. Think about it. As much as you may look to what others are doing in their business only you can make the final decision about what works best for you and your business. There’s not an easy one-size-fits-all approach to determining how to you will structure your business boundaries — aka business policies.

When you begin to set your boundaries you must decide what it is you want and consider any and all limitations.   For example, you may establish office hours that are set. Will this be a limit in working with someone in another time zone? Perhaps having one day with modified or extended hours is an answer to accommodating time zone differences.

Some believe business policies are set in stone and whatever you begin with, well, you’re stuck with. I respectfully disagree. I fully believe that a business is a living organic ever-changing thing. It’s only natural that your policies will change as the business grows and evolves from one level of success to the next. Additionally, I believe policies, while acting as guidelines for everyone, can also bend . . .   and be broken. The key lies in communicating these policies with your clients and being consistent.

If you’re ready to make a change, always give advance notice before implementing the new policies. This paves the path for a smooth transition.

Some business areas to consider when drafting your policies include:
“¢  Hours of operation – Will they be set Monday through Friday or flexible as needed?
“¢  Location of work performed – Done virtually or on-site, too?
“¢  Protocol for conversing and collaborating – How do you prefer to communicate? Email, phone, Skype? Weekly touch-base contacts?
“¢  Procedures – How do you prefer to work?
“¢  Turnaround time – Do you have a typical turnaround time?
“¢  Payment methods – Is payment expected upfront, in payments or at the conclusion of the project? What types of payment are accepted?
“¢  Delivery of goods – How does work exchange hands? Do you make free revisions or corrections?

When clear policies are established, shared, and respected then it becomes very easy to work harmoniously towards common goals. But if the fencing is not good then the weeds can grow through. Additionally, taking an individualized approach when coming up against a policy “push” allows wiggle room for some compromise without having to rework the policy. This may be a time to bend, break a policy, or simply be assertive with a “No”– something that can be appreciated by each side. There may be times that swaying with the request really is a good choice and other times when the boundary line needs to stand firm. Keep in mind what Mother says, “pick and choose your battles wisely.” Both ways can be good business practices.

If you’ve been hesitant to strengthen those fences or need to make some repairs to the holes between the pickets then I encourage you to jump in and do it. Defining your boundaries keeps the lines clear and keeps the office running smoothly. It’s impossible to please everyone and any business that tries will surely flounder, if not fail. Not every request will be profitable for the health of your business and its okay to let those requests pass by. Remember the four keys to defining boundaries are: 1) knowing what you want for your business, 2) finding balance, 3) having consistency, and 4) giving yourself permission to say, “No.”

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