Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not Training IS Training

My daughter recently got a dog. Like many (too many) dog owners, she rationalized that it didn't make sense to begin training the dog until it was in a stable environment. All the moving around during the Summer was too confusing for the pup. And the Fall semester at school was too hectic. And then she moved to a new apartment.

Guess what? The dog's six months old and trained . . . to bark. Trained to go where she wants. Trained to chew what she wants. Trained to eat whatever she finds.

In other words, NOT training is training.

So now we're beginning real training.

If you have kids, clients, or employees, you know it's the same story.

If you don't set down the rules, people figure out for themselves what's okay, what's acceptable, and what's preferred. Without your feedback, they try different things and continue doing whatever works.

This is why we have formal training. If you just send your technicians (or office staff) off to do their best, they will probably do well. But they won't do things YOUR way, and they won't do things consistently. It will cost you time and money. And it might cost your business it's reputation.

Similarly, with clients, if you let them do whatever they want, it will cost you time and money and freedom.

Consider the client who calls you at ten o'clock at night. If you answer, and help them, and don't charge extra, then you have trained them that it's okay to call you at night. If you stay at their office until six or seven or eight PM, then you have trained them that those are your hours.

It is sometimes hard for people to believe that their clients won't all leave if they say "no" to things like this. But trust me: They won't leave! Most businesses have reasonable rules and regulations. They have reasonable hours (e.g., 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday).

If you set such boundaries and enforce them, then clients will simply accept that you have reasonable limits. If you let them take advantage of you, they will. It's not a malicious thing. They're not trying to take advantage of you. They are just doing whatever they want because they have not bumped up against any limitations.

By not training your clients, you are training them to do what they want.

Look at what your clients do. They have reasonable hours. They charge for after-hours support. They are closed two days a week. They don't answer the phone in the middle of the night. And somehow, they're successful enough to pay your bill.

Yes There Are Exceptions

When I travel and speak, I frequently mention that we work 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. And 99.99% of the time, the first question I get is "Do you mean you never have to fix a server in the middle of the night?"

Well, well sell business class HP equipment and it's required to be under warranty. So, to be honest, machines don't break in the middle of the night. It has been YEARS since we've had a real after-hours emergency.

But, sure. If there's an after-hours emergency, we'll deal with it. We'll work on weekends for $300/hr.

There are exceptions to our rules. Same at the doctor or dentist who has to come in on their day off. Shit happens. We deal with it.

But we don't create a rule based on the exception. The exception exists because we have a rule. Too often, people use the exception to justify not having rules and not training their clients and employees.

Don't be afraid to start laying down the limitations and enforcing them. It's really not difficult. And it will make you happier and more profitable!


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