I had a rather awkward situation a few weeks ago where a client came around to my house for an unexpected meeting.
I had a meeting with her there a few days previously, but didn’t make it clear that she couldn’t just pop over when she wanted, as it’s my home.
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Embarrassingly, I wasn’t exactly dressed for a work situation at the time and had to hide in the kitchen. How can I ensure this doesn’t happen again?
Clients can easily confuse initial contacts that go well as an invitation to treat the relationship as a personal right of access at any time that they feel the need for support or encouragement.
Equally, many home-based business operators find it difficult to establish boundaries between corporate and personal space.
As I indicate in my book There’s No Work Place Like Home (p.114), it is important to start by knowing yourself and how you work best over a long period of time. Identify work schedules and make them clear to your clients so that your terms and conditions are made available at your initial meetings.
To avoid a repetition of the reported incidents where this boundary has been overstepped, there are a number of protocols that will ensure that all parties are clear as to the degree of access:
- After the initial meeting with a client at your home, but also in an office or serviced facilities, you should issue a summary of discussion and a terms of engagement. This should lead to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that treats the client with dignity and respect and documents the task at hand, the terms of trade and makes arrangements for further contact as appropriate.
- Where this has not been done at the outset, a phone call should be made to arrange a formal meeting that sets out the purpose of the meeting, communication protocols and a summary of proposed actions that are to be considered at the formal meeting.
- If the client continues to approach you outside of that arrangement at your home or by phone, then as soon as you realise who they are, you should immediately tell them that you cannot assist them until a formal agreement and work plan has been established.
- To make the position clear it may be necessary to have a business partner or an associate present at the next client contact to ensure that there is a record of discussions and evidence that you have taken all reasonable steps to clarify your preferred mode of business.
- The goal is to remain respectful, responsive, co-operative, and professional by confirming your practice expectations but be willing to withdraw your services if this is not likely to be a mutual experience.
- Finally, it is important to make a diary note of actions taken to confirm that you are accessible to your clients to protect their privacy and your own professional standard.