‘Don’t take it personally, it’s just business”
That’s what he said, right before he went into a huge rant and tore down a coworker to their very core. But everybody says that, right? “It’s just business” is supposed to mean that you shouldn’t show emotion, it shouldn’t hurt, you shouldn’t be personal or take things personally because it is “just business.”
I’m here to call BS on that lie, because let me tell you my friend, business is nothing if it’s not personal.
I had an experience yesterday that I will never forget, and I have to share it with you. See how you can relate…
I’ve been working with a new client, getting things set up for them to start a new program with me – let’s call them Client A. I’m used to most of my clients working in a very rapid-fire pace, but there were some things this client needed to do before we could start – fair enough.
While this client was getting things in order, another prospective client emailed me asking if we could talk – let’s call them Client B. Sure, why not – I’ll chat with them. My roster is technically full once Client A moves forward, but I’ll talk with them.
But Client B didn’t just want to talk. Client B wanted to work with me – and they were ready to move forward today. So I said “I don’t have the room for you to start today, Client B, but if you can wait a few days I’ll look into my other clients’ program dates and see when I can fit you in.” They agreed. No problem.
Client A was facing more and more challenges in getting started, though, and I couldn’t have a complete picture of my calendar until I knew when they were starting. Client B kept emailing – “any news yet?” And I kept responding, “No, not yet. Just a few more days.”
Days turned into over a week, and then the unthinkable happened for Client A – a big personal matter that needed all of their focus. One that, after my father’s strokes last year, hit close to home. I felt for them so deeply… But I knew I needed to give an answer to Client B.
So I did what the textbooks tell you to do. I did what the boss above would have done. I pulled up my business britches, expressed my condolences, and explained the situation with Client B. I asked if it were possible for Client A to move forward at all, even in the slightest way, so I could tell Client B with certainty.
Sometimes we make decisions based on whom we feel we should be rather than who we are. Those decisions, FYI, are typically wrong.
Client A came back with a no – it will have to wait, the personal matter was priority #1. If we couldn’t end up working together as a result, they were willing to make that sacrifice.
And in that moment, I had a decision to make. I could do the “business smart” thing, take Client B who was ready and willing and able to start right away, and send more condolences to Client A.
But here’s the thing – business isn’t just business. It is personal. It is intensely personal, especially when you spend all day genuinely caring about your clients and their success.
And so I did something that most hard-core business gurus, teachers, trainers, CEOs would write me off for. I emailed Client A:
“Client B can start in September, when another client is wrapping up their program. Your spot is waiting here for you when you get back. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
A complete reverse in position, a shocker for Client A I’m sure. Then the email to Client B:
“I’m sorry, my roster is full until September. If you want to lay out a plan of action for then, we can get started after the summer.”
I still haven’t heard back, and don’t know if I will.
And that was the best possible decision I could have made.
It makes no business sense. I mean really, I just turned away a paying client for a client that is *likely* but not *guaranteed* to come on. I turned down money today for the potential of money next month.
But I couldn’t do it any other way. Reading their words, feeling the raw emotion of what they were going through – and then robbing them of something they really wanted to do? I couldn’t do it. There wasn’t a fibre in my being that would let me pull that trigger.
And that, my friends, is why business is personal.
Because sometimes you have to make the choice that will help you sleep at night.
I don’t know what will come of all of this, but I do know that no matter what happens, I can feel good about it.
When you spend your life building a business to serve others, when you spend your days genuinely caring about the success and joy and pain of others, business is deeply personal.
Have you had an experience like this? How did you handle it? Do you have any regrets? Share in the comments!