Jennifer and Kelly chat about how she found her thing, starting a freelance business, challenging clients, and how systems create freedom.
I was racking my brain, trying to remember where I actually met Kelly Azevedo the first time. I think it was through the Infusionsoft (now Keap) community back in 2009ish.
While I’m still not quite sure where we met, I am 100% sure she’s always been someone I respect because she walks her talk, gets things done, loves systems as much as I do (if not more), and produces results. She’s also down-to-earth and funny as hell — and she’s worked with me on Content Camp as a workshop facilitator too!
Kelly has been in the digital entrepreneurship and online coaching space for a long time and she’s seen the systems behind the curtains of some of the industry’s biggest gurus — and in our conversation, she’s spilling some stories.
In this podcast episode, Kelly shares the story of getting punished for being effective in an early job, how she discovered systems were her thing, and the mistakes she made when starting a freelance business — like not standing up for herself with a troublesome client and not enforcing boundaries. Wait until you hear what happened! OMG.
We also talk about:
- How to create strong client relationships and why it’s actually a good thing to set limits on your services and not be everything to your clients.
- Why every freelancer needs to get clear about who they do and don’t want to work with.
- The importance of clear communication and asking questions instead of relying on project management software and tools.
- How systems create more freedom and happier business owners and why her goal is for clients to eventually outgrow her services and not need her anymore. Say hello to sustainable business systems!
- The one thing every freelancer and solopreneuer needs to get good at to protect their mental health.
I can’t wait for you to listen!
Get To Know Kelly Azevedo
Kelly Azevedo is the founder of She’s Got Systems and an online business strategist, systems expert and implementation master. Kelly believes that every single business should rely on custom systems to succeed and her book series Every Entrepreneur Needs Systems teaches lessons around marketing, relationships and mindset. Serving clients all over the world, She’s Got Systems creates the business backend that clients need to optimize their time, grow their income, and enjoy time off without stress.
Kelly frequently writes about systems for media outlets such as Comstocks, Forbes, the Washington Post, and Women 2.0, and her unique brand of life-work balance was featured in the New York Times. You can connect with her on social media, including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
Bonus Training With Kelly Azevedo
To hear more from Kelly and learn what she thinks is most important to include in your freelance proposals and contracts to set proper expectations with prospective clients, check out the Seeking Satisfaction Extra Minutes Membership.
Members receive Extra Minutes bonus training from Jennifer and podcast guests like Kelly that provide valuable insights and lessons to help you build a better business for only $15/month.
Kelly’s Extra Minutes training continues the conversation from the podcast and dives deep on building mutually beneficial client relationships and creating crystal clear proposals that set you up for success.
We also talk about:
- What question you should ask every lead during an exploratory call, strategy call, sales call, or discovery call.
- Why you need to put boundaries on the freelance services you offer and how you can help clients — and how to hold that boundary.
- How your attitude affects your energy levels and how clients feel about their client experience and working with you.
You’re not going to grow a strong business when you try to be an all-you-can-eat buffet or doing everything for everyone. It is better for you, your sanity, your scope, all of that, and it’s better for your client to hire you for the things you can do well.
I don’t want someone to hire me for the things I can do okay. They’re not going to be happy, I’m not going to get paid what I wanna get paid, and at the end of the day, everyone’s frustrated.
Welcome to Seeking Satisfaction, a podcast that encourages you to live inspired, embrace imperfection, and seek satisfaction. I’m your host, Jennifer Bourn, freelance business mentor, course creator, and agency owner.
Today, I work with clients I love, do fulfilling work, and have the freedom to live the life of my choosing. But things weren’t always this rosy, which is why this show looks at the systems that power successful businesses and fulfilled lives, going behind the scenes with entrepreneurs, freelancers, and professionals to discover how they juggle work and life, manage clients and kids, handle stress, tackle, unexpected challenges.
And if you are seeking greater satisfaction in work and life, you are in the right place.
Today, I am here with Kelly Azevedo — online business strategist, systems expert, and implementation master. As founder of She’s Got Systems, Kelly creates the business backend that clients need to optimize their time, grow their income, and enjoy time off without stress.
Kelly, thank you so much for joining me.
Yeah, thanks for having me, Jennifer.
Now, you are working with clients around the world to document standard operating procedures, create systems, and streamline businesses. You’re executing marketing strategy for massive online launches and keeping the launch train on track.
And you’re renovating a home that’s more than a hundred years old… And you still have time to stitch gorgeous — and hand stitch by the way — gorgeous quilts, read and write, and get involved in local politics. And I need to know how you find time to do all of that.
Yeah, it’s odd to think about as I track things that I wanted to do in my personal life or my business life. Sometimes I even look back over the last few months and go, “How did that happen?” One thing I will say, like doing something like this quilt behind me, was thanks to a lovely little thing called a pandemic and being stuck after selling my house, and not being able to move or do much work because I was in a place with really bad internet. And I was like, “Great, I’m going to stitch a 2000-item quilt just for the fun of it.
But I find that today in my life, with a full slate of clients, doing my own marketing, and then making sure I work out every day and go to political meetings… For me, it’s selecting what’s important and I think the main point of like, seeking satisfaction, is “What do you care about?” And then being unapologetic that that’s where your values lie and that’s where you’re going to spend your time.
You know, not everyone wants, the lifestyle I’ve created for myself. Even just moving to a new state where I didn’t know anyone and buying an old house that needs lots of work.
Plenty of people I’ve talked to go, “Oh, why would you do that?” But what was important is I knew what I wanted to do. So when I’m spending time on the things I care about it isn’t hard. It doesn’t feel like work. It’s just enjoyable. And then I get to do it more.
I think that if I were following someone else’s path, if I was living. In the middle of a very busy city. if I was, building a different type of business, I would be miserable.
Well, I love that you mentioned priorities as a way to make sure that you’re spending your time on the things that are important to you because that’s really what it comes down to. How you spend your time really reveals what you prioritize in your business and in your life.
Yeah. It’s simple things too. Like in the past couple of years, maybe you weren’t going out to a lot of networking events. Totally understandable. I decided that if I couldn’t be at events with lots of people, I wanted to have deeper relationships with the individuals that I knew. So I made it a point to set up one-on-one calls or to send physical cards to people. And I may not be as consistent with that as I want to, but it served the goal of deepening relationships, even though traditional networking, wasn’t really a thing.
And I know about you, there’s only so many zoom calls I can do in a week
100%. Now your life looks a lot different than when you first started your career. You started with a corporate job, and now you have the freedom to run your business from anywhere you choose and work with anybody you choose, you are the master of your own business, your own schedule. What did that transition look like?
It wasn’t very planned out like committed people do now.
In like 2007/ 2008 when there was a recession and there was a lot of uncertainty I ended up working a few jobs where I always felt like I was underpaid and I’d been in this new job for maybe six months and my head boss called me in for my review. And she said, “We’ve never had anyone as good as you.”
I was like, “Wow.” She’s like “You’re so efficient and I find that you set up all these systems and there are no mistakes so you don’t have to spend time going back and fixing them.
You had a similar experience that I did in my first job out of college.
They told me it was going to be like, a 60 hour a week job, and it was going to be so hard and they didn’t know if I was ready for something like that… And it literally took me 20 hours a week and then I was begging for work.
Yeah, I mean, a lot of times I was waiting. I was doing the accounting for 40 facilities. A lot of them had the same vendors so it was just detail stuff. But I was feeling like, “Yes! I’m nailing this job. It’s time for me to take on more responsibility. It’s a regional office. This is great.”
But the conclusion from the boss was “So, because you’re so efficient, we’re cutting your hours and you’re paid by 20%.” And I was a new homeowner and I was just like, “I’m not going to be able to pay my bills.”
So I just had one day a week where I was essentially off work. The first week, I was like, “I gotta save money.” So I like shopped my car insurance and my house insurance and like, I reduced the size of my trash can. Jennifer, I was like, whatever I can do to save some money.
Every little penny matters.
And then I realized I can’t keep doing that week after week. I have to go make money.
And so I really thought about what the problem was. And the problem was I was working for a company stuck in the seventies that only cared about saving money — and they were paying like it was the seventies.
And I was like what’s a group of people who would appreciate it if I worked faster? And that’s how I really transitioned into entrepreneurship and by the end of my first year with this company they called me back in and they said, “Good news. We’re gonna bring you back to full-time, 40 hours a week. We’re gonna shuffle things up though. This one part of your job that’s really easy, we’re gonna take that away. Then we’re gonna give you the hardest parts of your coworker’s job. And, it’s the same pay.”
And I said no. I said, “If you’re increasing my responsibility and increasing my workload and decreasing her workload, that comes with a raise.” And they were just like, no, and even if I were working full time for them, I wouldn’t have been able to pay the bills. So I said, “Well, let me think about it.”
I used their printer to print off my resignation letter and quit.
I love that you used their printer
I had one client at the time. They very quickly were ready to take me to full-time, but I didn’t have a business structure. I didn’t have a plan to find other clients. If this one didn’t work out, I was just in it and I think that the reason it worked is because I went all in knowing that I didn’t want to go back to where I was.
That’s really powerful — putting that stake in the sand and saying, I’m making this change. I am all in. And I’m gonna make that work.
Now, clearly from your corporate job. Systems are your jam, You took a job that was a full-time job and turned it into a part-time job. Did you always know that you were good at systems? Was this always a core competency of yours?
When I tell people my origin story, it is that I was raised by an engineer. And one of my earliest memories when I was a kid, was at the grocery store with my mom and my brother — and my brother has a sweet tooth and ADHD, so by the time he got to the checkout he was like Snickers and Kit Kat and Almond Joy and “I want all the candy!” And my mom would be loading the groceries, being like, “No.”
And I would sit there in the aisle and put all the candy back in the right spot — at like four or five years old, because I wanted to. So like, organizing things has always just been in my blood.
But I think what really honed that in for me, because even a year after quitting that corporate job, I was still kind of like, “Ah, what am I doing?” I was at an event and the event was all about finding your purpose. And I was like, yes, this is what I need. But for two days of the event, all they kept saying was just fall in love with why you do this work.
Nobody cares about how you do it. Just figure out the why. And I was so mad. Jennifer, you get it. I was sitting there for two days, glaring. Like I care about the, how I am good at the how
You cannot run a business on nothing but love and
The client I’d been working for for a year, they were really good at having this like bright idea and giving it to me and I had to go figure out how to make it happen.
So, the second night of that event — it was a three-day event — I abandoned my roommate, I abandoned my friends, and I went out to dinner by myself at the mall with like the saddest dinner. And I just sat there and stared and was mentally tabulating how much money I’d wasted on the flight and the ticket and the rental car and the this and the that and I was just like, “All they keep saying is find your why.”
And then like, I had a thought… Maybe my why is helping other people figure out their how.
Jennifer Bourn: Oh, my gosh.
And I was like, “Oh, I get it because I’m surrounded by all these people who are very nice, going “I’ve got my why now what?”
At the event they’re like “Go by our program.” And I was like “The how is my space. Now that you know what you want and why you want it, I can help you get there in the quickest way, in the most stress-free way possible, and still align it with your goals and what you want.”
The hard thing about that was like, “How do I phrase this? And how do I get people to understand that when you’re owning a business, you can’t just walk around and be like, we’re gonna have a this. And then it just magically appears.”
So I, started working with a lot of creative entrepreneurs and people who had ideas had inspiration, knew what they wanted to see…
But didn’t know how to bring them to life.
And they had sometimes no patience for that. Like, I would ask a question and they’d be like, I don’t know, make it happen. Okay. Well, I’m not a magician but I’ve been now doing this for 12 years. So I understand how all these different modalities work and also processes. So whether your business is making over a billion a year, pretty regularly, and you’re growing through that, or you’re kind of just starting up and trying to figure things out.
My way of working is there’s a system for that and let’s make the system work for you.
I love the notion of making the systems work for you, not making you work for the system.
So many times we look at what other people are doing and we try to fit our workflow and how we work into that software or that system or that process. But it doesn’t necessarily serve us and flipping that around and saying, “How do I work best? How can I support myself showing up as my best self and make the systems work around that?
Now, there are a lot of gurus out there. We’ve had many conversations about this. There are a lot of gurus out there that tell you systems are set it and forget it, Write it down, automate it, systematize it and move on. There’s this notion that once you have documented systems in place, everything just magically runs super smooth, but that’s not really the case is it?
So, systems aren’t set it and forget it unless you want your business to become stale and out of touch very, very quickly. And the reason I say that is systems are kind of in this in between.
I had a client once who was reviewing and updating his systems every week. And I was like, “That’s excessive and you’re talking to me.”
And then I had people who would say, “Oh yeah, I have a system for that, but it turns out like it hasn’t been updated since the Reagan administration and it’s probably a bit outdated.
So to me, the power of a system just very simply is that anybody with intelligence can come into your business, follow a system from A to Z, and be successful without asking for help without having a hundred questions.
There’s a system, they can follow it and they get the outcome you want. So that has to be kept up to date to what you want. Cause we’re always changing the way we do things. We’re learning about what works better. And if you just say, well, that worked for me in 1999. Well, great, but we’re a little bit beyond that now.
Well, that’s a great way to break it down to its most simplest nature. If a stranger that knows nothing about your business can come in, follow the instructions, and complete a task to your satisfaction, then that system is successful.
One of the very first clients I worked with after I really got clear that I do systems, told me years later that I had saved his marriage because his wife was doing his newsletter. Every week he had corrections and she was like, “That doesn’t matter.” And he was a design guy so he was like, “It’s two pixels instead of three.” And they were not happy.
I wrote out his system, I gave it to a new VA who had never used a software, had never worked in an online business, and had no idea what she was doing. But I sat on, probably at the time, Skype with her and she went through the system. And every time she had a question, she’d go, “Oh wait, that’s the next step. Nevermind.”
And she got all the way through the system, sent him a test to the newsletter, and it was perfect. And I was like, that’s the power of the system. And later on, he actually stopped working with VAs and his wife decided to do the newsletter again, and then she told me, “Well, this is exactly what I needed to make him happy.”
Cause he wanted his newsletter to look a certain way and we all have that right. In our own business, there are things that we don’t care about. There are things that we really care about getting right. And I think there’s this dichotomy where people think, “Well, if it’s going to be done my way, it has to be done by me,” and that’s just not true.
I will say the most common thing I would get in the beginning, “Well, it’s faster to do it myself.”
Oh, my gosh. I’m guilty of saying that.
Here’s what I would ask those people… Most of them were a little bit older than me. They had kids and I’d say, “How old is your kid?” Oh 12. “And you’re still tying his shoes. Right? Cause it’s easier for you to tie his shoes than to teach him how to do it.”
And they’d be like, ” Well, no.”
I’m like, “Well, wouldn’t it be faster if you just did it? I mean, I’m sure teaching him took longer than you doing it yourself?”
But if you don’t give somebody the tools to be successful, you have to follow them around their whole life and do it for them. So, short term, it does take more time to teach someone what you know, and how to do it. You’re not going to have any long-term leverage.
You’re not gonna get to go on vacation or a honeymoon or have a baby, or just have a sabbatical. Or a weekend off, if you are the one that has to do everything in your business,
Now when you are the bottleneck of all things, it is not a fun place to be because if you’re not sitting behind your computer and you’re not cranking out work, you’re not making any money. That is a terrible job, not a successful business.
We can have good systems in place, but if we’re working with the wrong people — the wrong partners, the wrong clients — those systems won’t do you a whole lot of good. I know you’ve experienced this firsthand. Tell me a little bit about that.
Yeah, I would say that systems don’t fix a bad strategy because you can do good execution on a bad strategy and they don’t change the other person that you are collaborating with or working for. Those are things that you can discover with the system — if they’re the right person — ideally before you start working together.
But they’re not a magic pill that just makes everything in your business go smoothly. It just makes the running of your business go more smoothly so you can deal with issues. And some of the issues might just be like communicating with clients when they have a concern or problem.
When I started working for different clients, I started taking all those lessons I was learning about who to work for and who not to work for and I would put them into my lead process of, like, the questions I ask or the things I look for before I send a proposal. And there were a few questions I could come up with that if they answered like the bad clients answered, it was a big warning sign.
And some of it was attitude. So it is hard to ask a question about your attitude but a good example is if I have a lead call and I’m going through the questions and I’m asking questions and listening, but then the person just takes over and tries to, like, decide how our call’s gonna run that’s an attitude that I think indicates they’re not gonna be willing to listen when I give them my expert opinion on something.
Oh, yeah. Clients who want to hijack the call and steamroll over you and be the leader — that’s not gonna be a good partner.
Kelly Azevedo: Another one is — I had this recently — where I was asking the questions and they were being answered but the lead was taking like four to five times longer than they needed to answer a simple question.
And I talked to them about this and I said, “If we work together, I need you to not monologue because a lot of times I just need a decision or I need some clarification. But if every time I ask for a clarification you give me the 20-year backstory of your business, you’re going to be paying a lot of money to talk about things which are irrelevant to us.”
And if they’re not open to that, they’re like, “Well, this is just how I am. I just talk all the time,” that’s not the best use of my time.
But I think that process of saying, “Who are the best clients I’ve worked with in the past few years? What did they have in common? What were some of the worst experiences and what was my first warning sign?”
There were times where I was like, “Okay, I’ll just take any clients I need to learn. I’ve got to figure this out.” And the first warning sign was they rescheduled our discovery call four times. I was like, “Oh, you don’t respect me.”
Yeah, that’s a very clear signal of my time is more important than yours.
Yeah. So I think that systems can help you identify and mitigate problems, especially like with your offers. You teach people the systems that help them train their clients on this is the way we work. But just because you have a system in place that sets a boundary, that doesn’t mean the other person’s gonna follow it.
And you’ve got a little bit of a heart-wrenching example, but one I feel like is so relatable because anybody who’s been in client services for any length of time, has worked with a client that has forced you to work weekends and pull off the absolute unthinkable. And you look back and are almost horrified at what you allowed to happen. And you had an experience like this…
Yeah, very early in my career I was working for a client — we’d done a big launch — and I actually had to moderate calls during the holidays. I was visiting my grandparents who didn’t have internet but I still had to go sit at a Barnes and Noble and moderate these calls.
Then we ran the program for 12 weeks. It was super intense — 70 hours a week, 80 hours a week. And then I booked a vacation right after the program ended so I could just get out of my house and see people and do things that I wanted to do. And on the very last call of this program, I think my client realized I don’t have anything lined up to make money.
And all of a sudden was like, “And we’re doing a new program! Contact Kelly if you want details.” And I was like, “Details? You don’t have details. What’s going on?”
I get on a plane. I think I had 12 missed calls by the time I landed. And then I’m on vacation and they’re like, “Well, can’t you come to this team call? Well, we have to do this strategy thing.” And instead of just saying, “No, I’m on vacation,” turning off my phone, I was trying to do both.
So I’ll never forget. I was in New York — maybe the second time I’ve ever been to New York. I wanted to see the sites and I’m at the Museum of Natural History and I was trying to charge my laptop and connect for a team call and the only place I could charge my laptop was in the corner of the fossil room.
So I’m sitting on this hard floor, my tiny laptop, charging, trying to connect by phone, not getting anywhere, and I look up and I just remember there’s this like giant prehistoric turtle. And I was just like, “What am I doing turtle? What is going on? I am not having fun on vacation. I am not getting any break from this insanity. And there’s just no mutual respect for my time.”
And other things kept coming up like that.
During the year that I worked for this client, my grandfather passed away and I remember thinking, “Oh, this is great timing, because we’re going to have his memorial service when my client’s on vacation herself so I can go to the memorial service.
Oh my gosh.
And then later I was just like, “Well, that was really messed up.”
That is super messed up.
But I had two grandfathers — one of whom I took care of pretty closely — the other one was the one who passed away. And my client at one point said, “You said something about your grandpa. I thought he died.” Like, she didn’t believe me when I said I had a death in the family, even though I didn’t take any time off. Even though I sat in the waiting room of the hospital with my laptop doing work for her while he was dying, she thought I’d like, made it up.
That is so disrespectful. I’m sorry, but some people have four grandpas. Come on.
I had to explain that I had multiple grandfathers and I was like, “Do you wanna… Do you wanna see the obituary?” Like what?
But I was a freelancer. I was on a contract and I wasn’t taking control of the fact that I got to set my hours. I let them decide how much I was going to work. I let them decide if I was getting a vacation. So I learned a lot, cause I was very young and stupid.
Well, I’m guessing you now have new systems in place to better vet those clients, create some stronger boundaries, and if you need to part ways… Can you share a little bit about your systems to create and maintain healthy client relationships?
Yeah. I think one of the most important things, no matter what kind of work you’re doing for clients, is setting that expectation for communication. Like, does a client expect you to be on a weekly team call? Does a client expect a weekly check-in? A report? What is that expectation? What will you deliver?
So, I reached out to this contractor that my client’s been working with to request that conversation, and their response was we don’t do phone calls. And the result from the client was we’re not gonna keep working with you if you won’t communicate what you are doing.
But a lot of those things we just assume, so it needs to be really clear. And I do this in my contracts anyways — in my proposal. I tell them what I do, but also what I don’t do so that a client doesn’t get confused about what I’m offering
And I like that juxtaposition. Right? I can do this and I would love to support you here. I can’t do this. Give a little and then draw that boundary.
What would you say to people who have trouble drawing the boundaries with clients — who really wanna push on that?
I would say that you’re not going to grow a strong business when you try to be an all-you-can-eat buffet or doing everything for everyone. It is better for you, your sanity, your scope, all of that, and it’s better for your client to hire you for the things you can do well.
I don’t want someone to hire me for the things I can do okay. They’re not going to be happy, I’m not going to get paid what I wanna get paid, and at the end of the day, everyone’s frustrated.
And it’s gonna hurt your ability to get a great testimonial, to get a great case study out of that work because you’re not doing your best work.
It’s not that you are telling someone no and letting them down. You’re telling your clients who you care about and how you can best serve them. And if you don’t care about how you can best serve your clients, a whole other conversation.
I was going to say, maybe you shouldn’t be in client services.
I do really like the reframing of that when you’re telling a client, no, it’s not telling them no and doing something that’s gonna make them upset. You’re really holding the space for them to find that person who does that the best — who is excited about it and passionate about it — instead of you who are like, “Well, maybe I could say yes to that but I don’t really want to do it.”
So saying no and holding that boundary is actually doing your client a favor by letting them find that person that’s the perfect fit for that job.
Sometimes we think of it, like, I have to be the end all be all for this client and that’s just very egotistical. If you’re going in, working for a client, and all the pressures on you for it to be successful, you better have equity. You better have ownership.
That’s kind of what solo entrepreneurship feels like and I don’t recommend it cause it’s very stressful. But when you come in to support someone else, that’s what you are. You’re supporting, you’re not taking over. It’s not all on your shoulders and if it ever feels that way, then you’re likely going to be out of balance compared to your salary or your pay.
Oh, that’s a really, really good reminder.
You can’t act like the owner when you’re not the owner. I mean, we can approach our clients with the same care we would give our own business. We can approach the jobs that they’re hiring us to do and the role that we’re playing with an owner mindset.
I know it’s really hard for a lot of people to not get too invested in clients, especially when you really like the people you’re working with and you wanna see them succeed. Holding that boundary for what you are paid for and what you’re not paid for can be really difficult.
Have you ever found yourself in that position and how did you reconcile that for yourself?
Yeah, this was a lesson I learned early on and had to put into my hiring process. I knew that I could help a client set their strategy. I knew I could help them build the systems that would execute that strategy and then project manage so that it all gets done and the launch, or the course, or whatever is successful.
What I couldn’t do is I couldn’t care for the client — and my client had checked out. Like, she just didn’t wanna do that part of her business anymore. She wanted to go do another endeavor and wasn’t ready to call it quits.
And I just got to the point where in our conversations… I was like, “I can be encouraging. I can be excited. I can be passionate about what you’re doing. But I can’t be your personal cheerleader trying to get you out of bed and care about your business.”
So that became one of my tenets. You have to care more about your business than I do.
Oh, 100%. That is such a red flag. If you find that you care more about their business than they do, that’s not a good place to be, and that’s a client relationship that maybe we need to be rethinking. Now, I know you have some thoughts on parting ways with clients. What does the process look like?
On a practical level, you have to look at the contract you have — and you should absolutely have a contract that details notifications. How you’re getting paid, if that goes through a certain date, or if you need to deliver things. Uh, if you owe a partial refund, all those things have to be taken into account.
And then, it’s highly dependent on the circumstance. But the way that I like to like break up is kind of a “It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s us. I’m not seeing how I can deliver what you need. And so I want you to have the space… I wanna give you this opportunity to go find the right people because there’s something about us together that isn’t meeting the expectation that we had.”
And if you do your work in the front end to get the right people in the door, that becomes less painful because they’re probably seeing it too. Sometimes it’s a very awkward thing. You can just be like, “Hey, I know this is awkward…”
But I tend to approach it as “I care about you in this business. I have really enjoyed working with you and understanding what you do and it’s becoming clear to me that we’re not a good long-term fit. And I don’t wanna drag out something that’s not working, cause it will ultimately hurt your business more, in the long run, to not have the right people on your team. So let’s discuss the transition.”
Here’s what I love about what you just said: You never said, “You did something wrong. You aren’t holding up your end of the bargain. You this, you this, you this…”
When you use that word, clients get so defensive and it almost makes it like you’re telling me that I’m bad. Everything that you just said was, “I am recognizing this situation. I am feeling like maybe we’re not a great fit and I wanna do what’s best for you.” And I think that’s so important in those situations where it might be awkward or there might be a lot of tension.
Yeah, and internally you might be like, “It’s totally you.” But the ultimate goal is that their business can succeed. And when I work with clients and it’s just a natural transition, it’s not like I’m firing you as a client. I remind them that because we’ve set up these systems, you can now bring in the people that you will work with best and they have a proven system to follow.
So, sometimes you want to highlight that your work has allowed them to replace you easily. Because I’ll tell my clients in our first meeting, it is not my goal to ever hold you hostage — that you have to keep paying me in order for your business to be successful. I want your business to succeed without me being on payroll, because that makes your business sustainable.
So there’s an inevitability of that transition in most of my roles. But at the same time, this is not a debate and a discussion. If you think of it like a relationship breakup, you don’t have to have two people agree to break up. Just one of you needs to make that decision.
So unless you’re trying to negotiate something, or like, get started again, that conversation really needs to be, “I’ve made the decision. Now let’s talk about how to make this really smooth and easy for you.”
And focus on the transition. Let’s talk about that transition and how I can make this as easy for you as possible.
You don’t wanna be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t wanna be there because they’ll leave eventually and it just gets harder.
Jennifer Bourn: No,
We want to end things on a positive note, always. Right? Never burn a bridge. You never know what the future is going to look like. You don’t know where they’re going, what they’re going to do next, who they’re going to work with, who they know. Business is a smaller world than you might think.
And speaking of ending on a positive note, there are three questions that I have. The first is what can’t live without tool or trick have you discovered that you wish you knew about earlier?
The best tool that I have found is not technical at all. It is asking a very clear question, especially around project management, in using any kind of communication. A very simple, clear question of like: Did you get that assignment? Will it be done? Do you have questions before I publish this?
Like, skip the tool that you think will solve the problem and remember to just communicate. And usually, that’s just a question — the simplest question you can ask.
Trust me. I’ve tried all of the project management systems. I’ve tried all of the CRMs. I’ve tried all of them and nothing replaces asking a client or team member what you need from them. And I think we forget that because we’re like, there has to be an AI that will solve this for me.
So not every day goes according to plan. Sometimes there are unexpected challenges that show up and fires we have got to put out. What do you do to help remain in a positive headspace on those days?
Well, the boundaries that we’ve been talking about — making sure that you’re not being jerked all over the place every day And then I do twice a day meditation, which allows me to like sit in silence, without a screen in front of me and have some healing time before I go back. Because I found the days that I don’t do it are the days where I am much more cranky and likely to like snap at someone.
So that’s what keeps me on an even keel as well as just the usual stuff — sleeping enough and stopping to have meals so you don’t get hangry by mid-afternoon.
That’s a really good reminder.
This is how I operate best. And yes, that means I can be the best at my job, but also I get to enjoy my life.
So for somebody who is just getting started with systems, and they wanna start documenting how things are to be done in their business — get some standard operating procedures in place so they can prepare themselves to get help and to bring somebody in and set them up for success — what is the first step that somebody should take?
I think the first thing you could do is write down the jobs or the projects or the tasks that you hate the most. Start with the things that you don’t want to do anymore and then document it.
I do recommend you do some documentation before you bring on someone new, but if you’re really busy and that’s why you need to bring on someone to help, you could bring them in, have trainings with them on Zoom, and have them write the documentation. You’re still, like, training them but if you do it right, it’s the last time you’ll ever have to repeat that.
Ooh, that’s a great tip to bring them in and have the documentation be part of the training. Because when you’re the one doing the documentation — writing it down, organizing it, going through, making sure it’s clear — you’re also going to understand that and retain that information so much better. That is a fantastic tip.
So Kelly, where can listeners connect with you online?
The best step is to find me at my website ShesGotSystems.com. I love being able to talk with people about like how to systematize it all.
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