Why and How to Treat Your Boss as Your Client
More than other types of businesses have in the past, professional services firms like mine have long had to focus on client service to survive. People businesses, like services companies, don’t have the default must-have or must-buy product, we can’t sell our wares via e-commerce, and we don’t have intermediaries like wholesalers to take the direct client engagements off our hands.
Happy clients mean bigger and better opportunities for us: Repeat and expanded business from existing clients and referrals to clients’ contacts for new business. You’ll grow more quickly if you keep clients happy and leverage their happiness, as these avenues make for better and faster ways to grow a business than any other. Cold calling, networking, and even advertising for a professional services business will never pay the dividends that satisfied clients does.
Though customer satisfaction comes as part of the business for companies like mine—as almost all the work we do each day hinges on a client project, not something taking place internally at the firm—observation has drawn me to believe that a broader swath of the workforce should adjust their mindsets to approach the work from the same perspective.
Why You Should Treat Your Boss Like a Client
Think about your career. If you want to grow, develop, gain new opportunities, get stellar reviews leading to the next rung of the ladder, leap into new companies, ratchet up your salary, and beyond, you’ll best meet success through making your current client—your boss—happy.
Your company employs you to help your boss achieve objectives through bringing in expertise or reducing his or her workload—or, likely, a combination of the two. Effectively, this has no difference from hiring someone to help you decorate your living room, organize your closets, clean your house or overhaul your yard, retile your bathroom, or plan your next vacation.
If you’ve hired anyone for a service, you’ve played the client role. How your service provider treated you made all the difference to the opportunities you presented that person going forward, from your reviews and references to your repeat business. Right?
The same principle applies to how you treat your boss. If you think of your boss as your client, you’ll come out ahead every time.
What it Means to Treat Your Boss as Your Client
Wondering how treating your boss like your client differs from what you’re doing now? I’ll cull a few examples from FrogDog’s client-services approach:
When we come to meetings with clients, we come prepared. We have an agenda, key questions we need answered to move forward, a report on progress, next steps, and any detailed requirements for our mutual success.
With an understanding of our clients’ objectives, we draft a work plan for review, discussion, and approval.
We know our clients don’t have all the answers or they wouldn’t have hired us. We try to answer our own questions where we can and when we can’t, we proactively ask for what we need.
Though we do ask for what we need to succeed, we frame our requests in ways that acknowledge that our ability to thrive depends on how we help our clients thrive. When we make a request, we aim to show how granting it will provide mutual benefit.
We take care to respect our clients’ time and we request no more of it than we need to achieve our mutual objectives. Sometimes, our clients hired us not because they don’t have the expertise, but because they don’t have the time. (In most cases, they’ve hired us because they don’t have the time and they don’t have the expertise.)
We implement processes and tools whenever we can to make our clients’ lives easier, give them what they need, and conduct our project smoothly.
We remember why our clients hired us and we bring it to the table in spades. We ensure we understand the objectives of the work and the key success indicators for our clients, and we do our best to nail them every time.
For additional ideas along these lines—and ways to ensure you have the best possible working relationship with your boss—read my article on how to manage up.
Treating Your Boss Like Your Client Gives You Control
Though you may balk at the idea at first, reconsider: Treating your boss like your client benefits you as much as it does her.
When you realize that you have control over how you conduct your role, your work, and your business and see your effort as contributing to a company-of-one aiming high, you will feel less dependent and more independent—and empowered—as a result.
And frankly, treating your boss like your client better safeguards you against current business trends. The era of the “gig worker” and rising automation threatens the old employer-employee paradigm. If you’ve taken job stability and its attendant advantages for granted—paid time off, automatic job progression based on tenure, health and dental benefits, miscellaneous perks, and so on—you need to rethink your stance. If a company can get better service and results for cheaper and less hassle from outsourcing the work to an outside team, an independent contractor, or even an offshore vender, it will.
Treating your boss as your client will promote—and protect—you.