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How Client Relationships are Like a Marriage

The sun is hot. The days are long. Wedding season is upon us.

Whether you’re the type to brag about all of the weddings you’re invited to this summer (you must be so popular), or the one to complain about how expensive wedding gifts are, everyone has their favourite part of being a wedding guest.

Perhaps it’s the free booze (check). Or hitting the dance floor with drunk Uncle Frank (double check). Or maybe you love watching the look on the groom’s face as he watches his bride walk down the aisle…

Seriously, who doesn’t love those sappy tears of joy?

While I do enjoy all of the above, one of my favourite parts of attending a wedding is listening to the speeches. I love discovering those small details about the bride and groom from the people who know them best. Speeches also give an opportunity for friends and family of all generations to share their best marriage advice (some of which is good, some not so much). Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I love a solid wedding toast, packing the perfect punch of humour paired with a sweet hint of sentiment.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching my brother-in-law marry the girl of his dreams. His wife (and my new sister) made a beautiful bride, and it was a perfect day all around.

When I was thinking about what to blog about this week, the wedding bells were still echoing in my ears and I couldn’t help reflecting on the similarities between marriage and business.

So I’ve put together my own list of advice, which I feel can be applied both to a marriage and to a client relationship:

 1. Demonstrate your strengths; own your weaknesses.

Business, like marriage, isn’t an easy ride. And when building long-term partnerships, it’s important for you to understand how to shine light on your strengths while also being attentive to your weaknesses.

When a new client comes to you with a request and you know it’s the type of project you can knock out of the park, don’t just tell them what you’re good at – show them. Always deliver on your promises. At the same time, know when to pass on an assignment that may be outside of your expertise. Maybe even refer them to a colleague who is better suited for the job.

Whatever you do, always pay attention to feedback in your business (and personal) relationships and look for areas where you can improve. See your weaknesses as opportunities rather than flaws. And if you make a mistake, own it.

2. Go out of your way to make their day.

I’m not saying you have to come home from work with a bouquet of flowers in hand every week (over-delivering can create certain expectations), but tossing a pleasant surprise into the mix now and then can really go a long way to show how much you appreciate your partner (or client).

After all, your clients are a big part of the reason you’re able to do what you do. They trust you. They challenge you. They refer you. Don’t let these perks go unnoticed. When you find someone you really enjoy working with, make sure they know it.

3. Earn trust through transparency.

Your client – or spouse – most likely signed the dotted line in the first place because they felt like they could trust you. But you should never take that trust for granted. Remind them they can depend on you on a regular basis by being there to offer guidance and support as needed.

Continue to keep them in the loop of the scope of your project, and fill them in on how you are working to reach certain goals. Demonstrating a level of transparency in how you approach your work helps them see (and appreciate) all of the hard work you are doing behind the scenes.

4. Know when to put your foot down.

While it’s important to be there when they need you, I’m not suggesting you should always be on call for your clients – you have to set some boundaries right out of the gate. For example, if you want your evenings and weekends free, make sure you draw those lines in the sand from the get go.

Your client plays an important role in your day, but that doesn’t mean they make all of the decisions. After all, you chose to work for yourself so you could be your own boss – you shouldn’t feel like you constantly have to answer to someone else. Know your limits, and make sure your client is aware of these perimeters.

Do you have any points to add? What other advice do you have for building a strong client relationship? How do you think this connection compares to a marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Author:

Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is the founder of Web of Words. She helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. Her work has been published in Maclean's, Canadian Business, Zoomer, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and fur-babe. To learn more, check out her portfolio at charlotteottaway.com and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.

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