You’re Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

Today is Sir John Tenniel’s 200th birthday. Not sure who he was? Well, sadly a great deal of the awareness of Tenniel is overshadowed by Lewis Carroll- the wonderfully imaginative author of Alice in Wonderland. While most of us know “I’m late! “I’m late” and some very accomplished reader here may be able to recite- “The Jabberwocky” most of us cannot quote Lewis Carroll- but we all remember the Mad Hatter, The Red Queen and her bawling child and dear Alice and the white rabbit and his pocket watch (where did he keep it? he kept pulling the watch from what appeared to be a vest pocket- but had no vest… a puzzlement). But I digress- while I am excited to learn, via Google’s Doodle, of Tenniel’s birthday I had been thinking about Tea for quite awhile.

I drink coffee. More than I will ever admit- and I like it strong. But I have found, since starting my business, that tea is on my mind. After water, tea is the most-consumed beverage on the planet. Discovered in China, stolen by the British and carried in secret to India- cause of the Opium Wars and the near destruction of the Chinese monarchy- it’s a powerful drink. But, as I said- I drink coffee. And tea- just isn’t my cup of tea.

What does this have to do with being an entrepreneur? EVERYTHING. (I say this often, quite frankly I have to be really excited to sit down long enough to write a blog post- let’s say I’m moved.) Think about how you spend your days looking for clients, building a network for referring business, advertising, god-willing, marketing yourself and the clients begin rolling in. It’s thrilling. You want to help every single one. You refine and hone your craft, get a good sense of pricing and giving quotes and proposals.

Except that one client- maybe they walked in. Or heard about you from a friend. Or worst of all- have been with you from the beginning. They never quite have their ask or want together (they’ll know what it is when they see it) They give you one set of requests- then another, then another. Long after a quote has been given, no money has exchanged hands- perhaps promises, but no actual payment, or very little. And the work drags on and on with no end in sight. You admonish yourself- for not getting it right. For not quoting differently. For whatever. It’s not working.

The answer to this situation is quite simple. But hard to see. So I’ll tell you. You’re not their cup of tea. You may have once been- but tastes change, needs change and what once worked may not now. What to do?

Realize that not everyone is a fit. Stop wasting time (yours and theirs) and money (mostly yours) and heart (all yours). It’s time to move on. And it’s going to be tricky.

No one approach will work for everyone but this is how I do it.

  • I thank them for coming to me, considering me for the task
  • I let them know that I cannot deliver what they are looking for despite best efforts
  • I tell them they need to find someone else that can give them what they need

I do NOT suggest an alternative person. The only thing less considerate than holding onto a client that YOU CANNOT SATISFY (read that again- this is NEVER going to work) is to hand that problem over to someone else. It would be like handing over a defective boyfriend to your single friend who’s looking- who does that to a friend?

In closing- know that this happens all the time, the longer you let this continue the more time is wasted and the more dissatisfied everyone will be. Your client will miss deadlines and due dates, they may even damage your reputation with complaints to others. In this day of crowdsourced testimonials, this is more expensive to your business than lost time.

I will end with this- I found it in a meme- memes are the ultimate source of absolute wisdom along with cat videos.

“The world is filled with people who, no matter what you do, no matter what you try, will simply not like you. But the world is also filled with those that will love you fiercely. The ones who love you.

They are

Your People.”

So go find your people. Best of luck.