In Search of the Elusive Ideal Client
For the last couple of years, I’ve been struggling to answer the question “who is my ideal client?”. It began to take on the feel of a jaunt through the pages of “Where’s Waldo” in which the joke was on me because Waldo had left the building.
I found it difficult to characterize the kind of person I loved working with based on such, in my mind, limiting factors like age, gender, and career path. Tonight I realized why I’ve been so stuck.
Losing Sight of What I Loved in the Muck of Corporate America
When I was younger, I tended to gravitate both personally and professionally towards men. They tended to be more straightforward and less inclined to play silly power games. But as time went on I had to shift my focus because the men I encountered in the workplace were all too often insecure, and felt threatened by a woman who asked the wrong questions, was disinclined to back down, and heaven forbid, might even know more than he did.
It didn’t matter that I was more than willing to share my knowledge. My non-competitive nature made it unlikely I’d fight for a job they might want. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do everything in my power to prove myself to the decision-makers. I just didn’t indulge in the games of subterfuge I encountered more and more often by people of both genders who didn’t feel confident enough to get ahead on their own merits.
I learned to spot a man whose wife ran the show from a hundred paces. Unfortunately, for reasons which had to do with my own struggles and insecurities, I tended to gravitate towards jobs where most if not all of the men in managerial positions fit that mold. The result was I no longer enjoyed working with most of the men I encountered. I began questioning how I myself had changed over the years.
Where are the Real, Honest, Entrepreneurs?
Tonight I realized I hadn’t really changed at all. I’d simply gravitated towards the wrong work environments. I also realized gender is not really a factor for me. What I do require in an ideal client is someone who is confident of their own abilities yet willing to admit they don’t know everything. Someone who has no problem admitting something isn’t in their realm of expertise and is willing to hire someone for whom it is (like me, perhaps!). They are also willing and able to accept “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” as an answer to their question without judgment or an immediate reduction in their opinion of the respondent’s capabilities.
The problem with people who are putting on a false front, or who have winged it for too long is that they know they’re on shaky ground, and do everything they can to hide it. Belittling or devaluing the work of others is one of their favorite tactics. As long as the people around them are left wondering if their contributions are important and valued, they retain their position of power.
Breaking Free of the Insecure Know-it-Alls
I’ve long believed I was destined to work with entrepreneurs, and that belief hasn’t changed. What has at this point is that gender, for me, is not a criteria at all. Self-confidence and an ability to work with people who know more than they do in a particular area means infinitely more. These are the people who know what they’re good at, what they love, and what they prefer to spend their business hours doing. They neither want nor need to completely understand every aspect of their business, and as a result, put great value on those who do have the necessary knowledge and ability, and more importantly, can relieve them of the onerous and thankless task of micromanaging.
They know that just because a function isn’t directly involved in bringing in revenue doesn’t mean they aren’t an integral part of the revenue building process. The best innovations, the greatest marketing plans, the best salespeople would never survive without all of the people supporting them with their own talents and skills to keep the wheels of a business turning.
The Value of Non-Gender Specific Confidence
I do still appreciate the no-nonsense ways of those confident, intelligent men, but I also love and appreciate the women who are doing amazing things in their own rights. I don’t see a need to narrow my focus as so many coaches are encouraging me to do. As always, I have to march to the beat of my own rather unique drum. In truth, I get excited when I have the opportunity to work with someone who is pumped about what they do and far too busy doing it to even consider playing stupid games or indulging in office politics. Those people gather others around them who get the credit and respect they deserve for taking pride in their own part in the machine that drives the company. And more, they are made to feel appreciated for it without the need for fanfare or game playing.
Mindset Is the First Step on Our Path to the Ideal
I had the pleasure of seeing such an operation recently in which each and every person’s contribution to the overall success of the business was recognized, and everyone was a critical cog on the wheel. If you think about it, this makes a lot more sense than the way so many companies are run these days. Even the lowliest file clerk causes the operation to slow down if her job isn’t performed conscientiously. If the smallest cog in a machine fails, the entire machine goes down.
The same is true for a business, though many struggle along, trying to mask their inefficiencies, or all too often, by putting a heavier load on someone, usually a woman. And yes, I’ve been that woman more often than I care to admit.
There’s a lot to the old adage “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Too often, we cover up those weak links by redistributing the work instead of helping someone learn how to fish better. We don’t do anyone any favors. Yet, how often have I heard someone say “It’s faster to do it myself than to teach you how to do it!”.
Sure it is—this time. But what about the next time and the next? If we all learned, like the entrepreneurs I mention, to take the long view instead of the short one, we’d realize tremendous opportunities to improve someone else’s life and simplify our own at the same time! Even the exit from my last job was simplified because I’d taught the woman who took over how to do things she’d never been taught to do before. As far as I know, she rose to the occasion and gained a good bit of self-confidence in the process. I, for one am grateful for the opportunity to help someone see past their own limitations to their true abilities.
Painting the Picture
My ideal client, then, has many facets, but they’re broader than I’ve been instructed to make them. They look like this:
- Intelligent. I’d go so far as to say brilliant. I love working with great minds.
- Easily delegates tasks they are either not as good at, or simply dislike.
- Either male or female, probably over 40, and maybe 50. (only because they’re more likely to be established and possess the self-confidence mentioned above).
- Appreciates the contributions of others, no matter how big or small.
- Readily admits they don’t know everything, and appreciates honesty from others as well.
- Enjoys helping others become the best version of themselves.
- Multi-faceted (combines seemingly unlike talents, skills, and gifts to create something extraordinary).
There are probably a lot more, but for now, this paints the picture of someone I’d love to work with. Some coaches suggest choosing an income level, and I suppose there’s an implied one in here somewhere, but I believe we have to allow for those who are just getting started as well as those who are a strong, going concern. Sometimes being in on the ground floor of someone’s launch can be the most rewarding on many levels. I do love success stories!
Using Our Past to Create Our Future
If you’re like me and are still trying to figure out who you want and need to market to, I’d suggest looking back at who and what attracted you before you become wise and jaded. You might find some interesting answers there. If those things are unattractive now, ask yourself why, and look at what your life has looked like for the last 10 or 20 years. Again, you’ll probably find some surprises there.
As we grow and age, we often fall into patterns which aren’t really in our best interests, but they are a result of taking the path of least resistance. That path, as many of you have discovered, is a sure road to mediocrity. Once we drag ourselves off that path and start climbing a few mountains, fording a few streams, and scrambling over a few rocks, we find what it is we truly love and even what we’re willing to fight for.
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author.
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