Is The Customer Always Right, Even If It Hurts Your Profits, Business And Staff?

Are you burning the candle at both ends and struggling to maintain a professional attitude in the face of challenging economic conditions? The health of your business – and yourself – might require you to take a step back.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Do you always say yes to clients when they demand a specific deadline, even if you know that it will lead to extended overtime and all-nighters for your staff?


Overworking staff has become a negative trend in South Africa. This often happens when staff and contractors are billed by the hour. Often, they are expected to meet crazy deadlines, working through the night or having 12 to 18-hour workdays.

After doing this for two months, I've been working with a businessman who is now suffering from heart disease, kidney failure and suffering in his marriage.

1. A lack of sleep can lead to depression, heart disease and diabetes

Dr Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California says that sleeping less than seven hours a day leads to an increase of depression by 22%, heart disease by 73% and diabetes by 18%.
According to Walker, a lack of sleep lowers our empathy levels. This can be seen in a study that revealed that during the American Fall (Autumn) periods, when daylight saving hours are applied, legal judges usually give heavier sentences than when they have an hour longer to sleep at night.

When we have less than six hours of sleep, our brains tend to enter fight and flight mode, we are more irritable, and we're prone to errors. Car accidents even increase.

2. It's important to say no

Employees that struggle to say no may be suffering from Co-dependency, which means that they often find their satisfaction and self-worth in rescuing others. We often call them the "people pleasers', the yes-men and women that will do everything for everyone else – even to their own detriment, finally burning out and ending up in hospital.

Tip: Offer your employees assertiveness training or coaching sessions so that they can be enabled to drive win-win situations for the company, the client and themselves.

3. Set clear expectations with clients

  • Have an agile approach. Reprioritize tasks every two weeks with the client.
  • Be very clear on what is realistic and what is not.
  • Add an extra buffer of time to your timelines to ensure that you can meet the deadlines.
  • Should something come up that will cause a huge time delay, immediately communicate this to the client, and move the deadlines.

4. Keeping quiet is not communicating

Dr John Gottman researched why married couples get divorced, and one of the behaviours he identified actually doesn't happen in the home, but in the corporate context, where we want to "divorce' a team member, a leader and even a CEO.

  • Stonewalling. When one party is upset with another, or ashamed, they simply run into their cave and stop communicating. This is extremely damaging to your relationship with a client if a manager "stonewalls' their team, and they don't have access to a mentor or a coach to guide them through a difficult conversation with a client.
  • If you are a leader and your coping mechanism is to stonewall, notice what you are doing, and the damage that it is causing your team, your clients and your company.
  • The need for time-outs. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need a time-out my tip is this, ask for a few minutes to gather your thoughts, and then give yourself a time-limit to get out of your cave.
  • Communicate with your team members that they mustn't bother you when you've asked for a time-out, but then stick to your deadline so that you can continue to rationally looking for a win-win in the situation.