Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur who’s opened a new business. When we dream of starting a business, our minds fill with fantasies of success, growth, new freedoms, and award acceptance speeches. What you probably haven’t focused on is how others will view your business. Particularly your current and future employees. As well as others spread well beyond your inner circle. What these experiences will quickly teach you is the importance of business boundaries.
Sure, you’ll want to have healthy connections with everyone who engages with your business. But you’ll want to manage those relationships in productive and meaningful ways, lest your life become filled with distractions and interactions that wind up working against you.
The Open Door Policy
We’ve all heard the term “open door policy.” If you have one, how literally do you apply this policy day-to-day? Do you have a constant stream of employees darkening your doorstep with never-ending complaints about co-workers or new pie-in-the-sky ideas for making your business model soar? Do you allow for this policy during certain time windows during the day?
It’s perfectly fine to offer and have an open door policy, if you’re prepared for the constant interruptions and distractions it can bring. Here’s an article with some great thoughts on how to create an effective open door policy.
Your Email Inbox
When it comes to your email inbox, most people – friends, colleagues, and strangers alike – view your email as an open door policy whether you like it or not. You may be able to tame your inbox with the help of personal assistants or the latest inbox zero strategy. A good place to start is finding a good spam filter. Review your current email software to see if it has any built-in features to help you combat spam, which may be as simple as manually moving spam messages to a junk folder.
This next tactic may sound counter-intuitive, but an effective way to keep your spam from growing is to NOT unsubscribe from spam messages. Crafty spammers will often see someone unsubscribing as a way of knowing they’ve uncovered a live, viable email address to continue spamming. We know. It seems like you can’t win with spammers. This article provides other pitfalls of unsubscribing. If there is any particular company that continues to spam you for an inordinate amount of time, even after you’ve tried all your anti-spam measures, you may have to relent and try their unsubscribe link. In really extreme cases, you may want to solicit the help of the Federal Trade Commission to report an abusive spammer.
Other things you can do to relieve email clutter is make it clear to your employees what email threads you do and don’t want to be a part of. Create rules in your email preferences to automatically address specific emails that come into your account. Kindly ask friends to stop sending you funny emails. Etc.
Meetings can be another time-consuming chore. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously promotes a 2-pizza meeting limit to manage meeting attendance. Meaning, if 2 pizzas are not enough to feed everyone in the room, you have too many people at your meeting. No word if he’s referring to large, medium, or small pizzas.
Have an hour blocked out for a meeting and find were able to decide on action items after a half hour? End the meeting early! There’s no rule that says you have to fill the whole hour. This may feel like common sense, but leftover time may be seen as an opportunity by another attendee to stray off to other topics. Protect your boundaries by asking the employee to schedule another time where you’ll be prepared to focus on whatever it is he or she wants to talk about.
The Power of No (and an occasional Yes)
A lot of us are people-pleasers. We want to say “yes” more often than we should. The reality is, a successful business model is a rare and precious thing. Once you finally hit on something that works, everyone will want to jump on the bandwagon with great ideas that threaten to contort your successful working model into something you no longer recognize. It’s a recipe for possible disaster.
So, don’t be afraid to say no to ideas (respectfully), as most will not likely align with the principles that make up your successful business model. You are the ultimate filter on what ideas will and will not be adopted. So be prepared to disappoint others as an important condition of protecting your business. Don’t be so discouraging that your employees give up trying. Good, workable ideas will come up now and then that you can use to enhance your business model. And you’ll want to ensure your employees’ ideas are valued, in order to keep up morale in the process as you move forward.
Working at Home
Anyone who has ever worked at home will recognize this conundrum. When you work at home, everyone will see it as an invitation to stop by for a visit, to load you up with errands, or any of a number of other distractions. You can even be your worst distraction – being tempted to switch on the TV for company, take an unscheduled nap, or generally chill out when you should be working.
Here’s how to manage that:
- Commit yourself to working hours you’ll need to succeed. There’s may be no one else around but yourself to make sure you keep to a schedule.
- Create a dedicated work space. It can help separate your home space from your work space.
- Dress the part. Some people may be fine working in a bathrobe, but getting dressed for work can be motivating. Plus you may need to leave for an in-person meeting or (gasp) get caught on a Skype call wearing something that isn’t work appropriate.
- Let those (who need to) know the hours you’re available to be reached. People who work at home may tend to work unconventional hours or may be managing working with teams across time zones. That needs to be accounted for.
- Let everyone know your work time is valuable and to treat your work hours as if you worked in a company office. This is especially important for family and personal connections. They’ll be less likely to drop by unannounced and give you the space you need to get things done.
- Equip yourself for collaboration – That could include using productivity apps like Skpe, Zoom, Slack, or another communication device to enable you to work seamlessly with a remote team.
Teach Others How to Treat Your Business
Tips for Setting Boundaries when Working at Home
Jeff Bezos’s Productivity Tip? The ‘2 Pizza Rule’
3 Easy Steps to Establishing an Open Door Policy That Really Works