Stop Working for Free! Aim Higher. ↑

Stop Working for Free! Aim Higher. ↑

An hour worked should be an hour paid. Yet so many small business owners, solopreneurs, and freelancers feel like they need to give entirely too much away. In this episode, I discuss my client “Jeff” and his desire to work with better prospects and improve the cash flow in his business.

Key topics:

✔️ If someone says all the right things during the intake call and then turns into a bugaboo, stalker, weirdo, etc., what do you do?
✔️ Working for free or putting everything on the line in a contingency-based business model will break you. You’re not gonna have solid, dependable cash flow if you keep operating that way.
✔️ Don’t get happy ears on a sales call. Detach yourself from the outcome and develop safeguards that rule more people out than in. Not everyone on the planet is an ideal client for your business and that’s OK.
✔️ Your rules of engagement are utterly meaningless if you do not require compliance to them. You may as well save your breath if you let people treat you like a doormat.

Need more? Email me:


Transcription by Please forgive any typos!

Hello, hello and welcome to today’s episode of the Causey Consulting podcast. I’m your host Sara Causey and I’m also the owner of Causey Consulting, which you can find online anytime at Causey Consulting Back in February, I recorded an episode called results are King. And I talked about how people that are out in the marketplace selling based on a process are typically not making the kind of money they want to make. Your clients don’t care about every tiny detail. They don’t want to get bogged down in the minutia. They want to be sure that you can actually solve their problem for them. If they’re in pain, they want you to relieve the pain. And I use it maybe a somewhat harsh example that if john doe is working at a sales company, and he’s consistently not hitting his metrics, even if he’s got a lot of heart, even if he’s got a lot of try, he can still be let go due to a lack of ability to close deals. Why? Because results matter. I have a coaching client named Jeff, that’s not his real name. But it’s simply an alternative to my frequently used john doe or john q public. So I will call him Jeff. Jeff is a solopreneur in staffing. And one of the things that we’ve been working on is clearing off some mindset issues and some fears that he has about making the transition from contingency based searches, which is where the recruiter does all of the work upfront. And then they hope they get paid a finder’s fee. At the end of it all, it’s predicated on a lot of moving parts, any of which could, frankly, go straight to hell at any point. So he’s trying to make the transition from contingency based searches to either having a retained search, which is where the recruiter gets paid at certain milestones along the way of the search based on performance, or requiring some kind of downpayment, you know, Mr. or Mrs. client, in order for me to get started on this, I require X amount of dollars upfront, nothing is really certain until money has changed hands. And I’m a big believer that an hour worked should be an hour paid. In order to have stability and cash flow in your business. Most of the people who make it not all admittedly, but most of the people, especially small businesses, and solopreneurs. And staffing, most of the people that make it in the long run, are either doing some combination of a retainer and a contingency, or they’re just doing retained search only, they’re not putting themselves out, working and working and working and then hoping or having to get delayed payments, having people that say, yeah, I’ll pay you in 1010 days after the candidate starts working for us. And then they don’t pay until net 30, or net 60 or net 90. There’s just so much uncertainty there. And so many ways that clients can weasel out of paying the bill, if they really want to, that it’s better in the long run to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself, and you’re being cautious. So Jeff has some fear about that, would people really pay me a deposit? Would they really do a retained search? And that’s one of the things that we’ve been working on. Jeff has an workstyle that is similar to my own work style, which is telling me what needs to be done, what’s the end goal? What’s the outcome that you want to see achieved here? And then leave me alone. And let me deliver that outcome for you? If you want me to camp out on a Slack channel, or you want to have daily check ins or you want to blow the telephone up every two hours, I am not the consultant for you do not want will not do I find that kind of work style to be really intrusive and stifling. And the other thing is I own and operate my own business. So if I’m working for you in a consulting capacity, I’m not your employee, and I refuse to be treated as your employee, you’re either going to come correct and treat me as the authority figure, the subject matter expert, the the hired gun on the outside, or we’re just simply not going to work together anymore. So Jeff is trying to aim higher in his client selection, and really make sure that he’s only engaging with prospects who respect the gig, they want to work in the same way that he does. They’re going to tell him what they need, and then leave him alone to deliver the outcome. They’re not going to be bugaboos or pests. Jeff and Kate encountered a situation recently that I want to talk about here on the podcast because regardless of what industry you’re in, I believe a lot of people Small business owners or solopreneurs, can relate to this situation. And I want to give an opportunity to discuss this so that people have some ideas and some resources about what can I do if this happens to me. Jeff has recently started working with a new client. And by his account of the situation, there were no red flags, there were no warning signs, nothing came up. During the intake process that gave him any pause, there was no reason to feel any kind of alarm, the client was congenial. And Jeff assures me that he laid down the rules of engagement on how he was going to work, give me the search assignment, make sure that I have all the particulars that I need, there aren’t any boxes left unchecked or on fill, and then leave me alone, I’m not going to send any candidates to you, that are just kind of a middle of the road, ho hum, maybe I don’t really have their buy in not going to sling unqualified people at you, I’m going to make sure that if I send a resume to you, then it’s somebody that makes sense for the job. But if you don’t hear from me day in and day out, it doesn’t mean I’m not working, it just means I haven’t found somebody that I feel really confident about. But I’m not going to blow up your telephone, or your email with a lot of nonsense. And according to Jeff, the hiring manager was on board with it. That sounded great to him. He he was bought in and this sounded wonderful. So Jeff begins working on the search, again, on a contingency basis. So Jeff’s putting a lot of skin in the game upfront, he’s working and doing his best, and not getting any money for it. And there’s no guarantee, frankly, that he will at the end of this. So I myself as a coach, have some heartburn about the whole thing. After about three days of Jeff putting forth effort, getting his lines in the water, getting some preliminary seeds planted and waiting to see what’s going to bear fruit, who was going to call him back, etc. And if you if you’re in the business, or if you do anything sales related, you know that sometimes you have to put a tremendous amount of effort in upfront to really plant your seeds and water them and nurture them before they start bearing any fruit. That’s just a natural part of the process. So Jeff is doing all that. And after about three days, the hiring manager flips the script, since Jeff an email saying, well, I really think it would be good for us to have daily check ins, you know, we’re putting a lot of faith in you This position is integral to the company. It’s important, it’s high profile, we kind of want to know what you’re doing. Like, who are you talking to? How many candidates? Are you reaching out to? How many folks are you interviewing day in and day out? Like, what are you doing to make sure that we get somebody quickly and efficiently. And at that point, Jeff had heartburn it wasn’t just me having heartburn about it, Jeff was like, oh, man, I didn’t see this coming. I’m not really sure how to handle it. And they’re, they’re seriously we’re not any red flags, that this hiring manager was going to be a micromanager and was going to get all in my business, like, what do I do now? So we had that discussion. And I asked a lot of good questions, because I don’t like to lead the witness, I really want people to come to their own conclusions. And I don’t want to start prodding them along unless I really feel like they’re totally stuck. They’re just they’re at an impasse, and they can’t get to the next step without some assistance, they need that person that’s standing up on the next step to really help them get up. And as we were talking about it, I just reminded Jeff, the rules of engagement, do not have any meaning they do not carry any weight whatsoever, if you do not demand compliance to them. And I that is really, I think, the heart of this episode, and, and the main message that I want to communicate to all of you listening today, so I’ll say it again, your rules of engagement are worthless, they don’t carry any weight, they don’t matter whatsoever. If you don’t demand compliance to them. For some people, it really does seem to be human nature to test the limits. And it’s not even human nature. It’s just nature in general, I think, you know, I see animals all the time testing the fence, they want to see if they can slip out and go somewhere, they’re not supposed to go. And that is what it is, and it’s not going to change. But if you don’t fortify your boundaries and say this is a hard line, this is a line that we don’t cross if you want me to continue working for you, then this is a boundary that must be respected. If you’re not willing to do that. Then you don’t really have a boundary. You don’t really have coherent rules of engagement that mean anything. It’s just talk and hot air. Something else I want to point out is a lot of people who come from any type of sales and marketing meat grinder style company, or anybody that’s been in contingency based staffing, or any other kind of contingency based sales, where you have to do all the work up front, you have to jump through a lot of poodle hoops and, you know, do jazz hands and put on a show to try to get the person closed. A lot of people coming from that environment have been brainwashed whether they know it consciously or not. They’ve been brainwashed into this mentality of the customer is always right. Do whatever it takes to get them to sign. You know, I’m thinking of that scene with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, get them to sign on the line, which is dotted like nothing else matters. It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if the person’s not an ideal prospect, doesn’t matter if you really can’t help them, doesn’t matter if they’re going to become a giant headache and make you want to jump off the roof every day. Get them to sign on the line, which is dotted. That’s such an archaic and out of date way of selling. But listen, kids, you know, I realize some of you may get upset and offended when I say this, but I am telling you the God’s honest truth here. The olden times rule of the customer’s always right, even if they’re lying, even if they’re obnoxious. Even if they’re trying to hustle you to do something for nothing. They’re always right. every customer must be treated like a pure gold bar. Respectfully, I call bullshit. That is just simply not true. Some some clients, sorry, my Oklahoma allergies are flaring up. Some clients deserve to be fired. Some prospects deserve to never be worked with, again, period. I’m thinking of that holla note song, some things are better left unsaid. Some lives are better left untouched, some words are better left unspoken. Not everybody that you get on the phone with is going to be somebody that you can genuinely help. Now, in Jeff’s case, I feel like all we can do is just say we weren’t there. We don’t know if there were maybe some subtle red flags that he missed. Maybe did he get happy ears along the way at some point? I don’t know. Maybe the person really was like, Yeah, man, I’m willing to go along with this. This sounds great. And then they after three days, the guy had a panic attack and decided he needed to know everything that Jeff was doing all day long, even though he wasn’t paying Jeff any money. I mean, it’s bad enough, as a consultant, if you’re working on an hourly basis to have somebody that keeps wanting to poke you with a sharp stick, or they want to blow your phone up all the time. That’s bad enough. But when you are doing something on a contingency basis, and no money has changed hands whatsoever, and they want to treat you like an employee, they want to sit right on top of you micromanage you and control you. It’s just particularly galling and upsetting. So if you’re stuck in that mentality of everyone that’s willing to get on the phone with me should be treated like an ideal prospect. Any client I have, no matter how badly they behave, no matter how bad they grind my gears or get on my last good nerve, I need to jump through flaming poodle hoops to try to keep them. You need to work on dismantling that mindset. Whoever gave that to you, whether it was a hard driving sales manager or a company that you worked for, or maybe it’s just coming from your own sense of fear and scarcity mentality, if I don’t treat every client like pure gold, if I allow them to treat me poorly, you know, if I don’t do all of these things, that I’m not going to have enough business, we tend to begin making things catastrophic from there. If I if I don’t treat every client like gold, if I don’t bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy all day long all the time. I’m not going to have any business. I’m going to starve. I’m going to be homeless. Yeah, we take things from like one situation that’s maybe not going so well that you know, might not should have been engaged with in the first place and blow it up to where we’re living homeless on the street and panhandling and eating scraps out of a dumpster. And it’s like, Is that is that realistic? You know, if you have one negative experience with somebody, is that really going to be the death of your business? More than likely it’s not. In the results or King episode from February I talked about how a former manager told me some people like control more than they like money. Some people feel that they need to have a boot on the back of your neck. They need to know everything that you’re doing all the time in Jeff’s situation with this hiring manager who seemed to be very clear and relaxed about the situation and then suddenly freaked out. We don’t know if maybe he was getting pressure from somebody else, or if he was having a bad day and decided he was going to take it out on Jeff by wanting Jeff to II captain and report in every day. And maybe this is gonna sound a bit cold. But it ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s not Jeff’s problem to try to psychoanalyze this guy and figure out why he flipped the script. It’s Jeff’s responsibility to decide, do I want to put up with this? It’s a flagrant violation of the rules of engagement that I sit down at the beginning of all this. So do I want to turn a blind eye to what I’ve already told him? Or do I want to make sure that he comes correct? In order for me to finish this search? That was Jeff’s big question, to decide. If you’re in a similar situation, I obviously can’t tell you gospel truth do this or do that it’s x. Or it’s why I can tell you that speaking from my own experiences, when you have those early signs of trouble, when you see that somebody has agreed to what you set forth, and then they’re just gonna run right over the top of them. They want to know every detail of everything that you’re doing, including, let’s say that it to continue with Jeff’s example, like every candidate he spoke to that said no, or every candidates resume he looked at, that turned out to not be a good fit. If the hiring manager really feels that he needs to know all of that data, I mean, it it seems like a tremendous waste of time. And we can get mired and trying to figure out why the hiring manager is doing that. Or we can just simply say, this is violating the rules that were set down. So Jeff can go to him and say, remember, we talked about this, you’re not going to see any resumes for me, unless they make sense. They’ve been pre qualified and vetted, they’re interested and it makes sense to advance them to you. I’m not going to do daily check ins, I’m not going to report in to you about every single person that I’ve talked to and said no to you either trust me to do this work for you, or you don’t. And if you don’t, or you’re really looking for an employee that you can be on top of, I’m not your guy. I hear that. And I don’t hear anything that sounds aggressive, rude, hateful, combative, to me, it’s just speaking the truth. If the idea of a conversation like that scares you, I’m sure you can probably imagine, I’m going to tell you to practice, either practice in the mirror, practice with a friend until it doesn’t scare you anymore. You don’t have to get hateful, you don’t have to fly off the handle. But again, I will say your rules of engagement are worthless if you don’t demand adherence to them. Not to leave sort of a final thought on this. As we begin aiming higher as we start looking for clients that really and truly due respect the gig, they want to work in the same way that we do. A lot of these little petty issues will fall to the wayside. It gives me pause that this hiring manager was doing all this on a contingency basis. Quite frankly, if the position is that integral to the company, it’s that important that he wants to know every damn detail that that Jeff is doing all day long. He needs to get with somebody who can do it on a retainer basis, or he needs to have an hourly headhunter that is willing to do these daily check ins with him, maybe just needs to hire a contract are temporary employee of the company, really, I think that would be the best option. He needs to hire a temporary HR recruiter that is in fact, an employee of his company so that he can go down to his or her office every day and poke his head in and ask for status updates and do all the you know mind numbing minutiae of corporate America that that made me want to jump off the roof every day. But it’s not appropriate for him to engage with someone who does contingency searches and then demand that Jeff tell him we you know, everybody that you talk to, I want to know what you’re doing. Like why is it been three days and we haven’t seen anybody yet? That that’s a bit obsessive and excessive in my opinion. So as we aim higher as we get pickier, when we get on the phone with people, and we’re not committed to the outcome, we’re not attached to the end result. We’re willing to filter people out much more often than we filter people in, then we begin to attract individuals into our practice into our consulting business into our small business, that respect what we’re doing, and they will follow the rules of engagement. They will do what’s expected of them. They won’t tread over the boundaries and if they do, perhaps by accident, and you course correct them, we talked about this, remember, then they’ll back off and do what What they need to do to maintain a good relationship with you. You want to get away from putting the client up on such a pedestal that you’re just down on the ground groveling to them and worshipping at their feet. You are the expert, you are the authority figure. Someone in a subject matter expert authority level position is not going to put someone else up on a pedestal and grovel to them. It’s much more of a peer to peer relationship or expert to client relationship than anything about groveling or begging for business. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share it. If you haven’t already, take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and leave a review for us on iTunes. Bye for now.

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