My Worst Entrepreneur Mistake: Mistaking Compassion for Compatibility

Eric Guy Barcroft Media

Eric Guy Barcroft Media

When I decided to become an entrepreneur, it was because I was extremely passionate about educating people on financial literacy. After volunteering with the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), I felt strongly about the lack of financial literacy and its adverse impact on so many individuals. I helped people ranging from the working homeless to individuals on foreign visas who had no idea on maneuvering the complexities of the American tax system.

In fact, I quit my job in management consulting to establish a company that focused on financial literacy and tax preparation. I quickly learned that individuals that I volunteered to help were not necessarily a good fit as clients for my company. What I failed to realize is that just because I had an intense desire to help people did not mean that said people would pay me my worth for the services I provided.

Needless to say, my first full time expedition into entrepreneurship was a tough lesson on how compassion has little to do with compatibility. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few choice elements that have allowed me to stay compassionate about my clients yet find them compatible for my company. It has not been an easy experience learning, but it has been integral to my journey to success.

Time Management

I’ve always been extremely organized. I’ve used several different calendars in my Google schedule for years so that I could quickly ascertain my client meetings, business development opportunities, workouts and travel schedules, at a glance. When it comes to the balance between business development, client meetings and client work, I have a fixed system in place designed for my maximum personal and professional efficiency. I did several case studies that measured my personal happiness, client testimonials and professional output, using different scheduling techniques. As a result, I know what works best for me.  I have an easy scheduling system that allows me to determine meeting parameters based on client type

However, for the first year that I was in business, I would alter my schedule whenever a potential client had a good story. I would agree to help people outside my target client profile only for them to act offended when billing them for my time. Some clients went so far as to state I wasn’t a true entrepreneur because I chose not to answer my phone during a silent meditation retreat I was attending. I would power through and complete all agreed upon work even though they killed all compassion that I have for their individualized financial need. I slowly learned that clients who didn’t value my time were not compatible with my business or me. The time management techniques I have implemented protect me from wasting my time on such clients.

Focused Interaction

I believe in mindfulness and giving each client my undivided attention. I am extremely restrictive about answering my phone during my work hours. I spend all of my time in either face-to-face interactions or executing client work. I do have someone that answers my phone and provides necessary updates to clients. I realized early on that this facilitates better client engagements and more work is accomplished when I’m not distracted. I ask all clients to sign a communication policy, which spells this out in great detail. Regardless, the incompatible clients simply ignore my policy while calling seven times daily and refusing to provide a time that I can contact them. It’s funny looking back how many clients were infuriated by the fact that my life didn’t revolve around them. 

I have received many emails from clients stating that they refuse to make appointments with me and only want to contact me when they have free time. I also have several emails from clients asking why they have to wait for me to return from vacation for an appointment when they wanted to speak to me that very second. I always wonder if they leave messages for their doctor, lawyer or other trusted advisors in the same vein. I understood that even though I deeply wanted to get their finances in order, I was not as understanding toward their struggle because of their lack of compatibility. The rest of my clients love the fact that I’m extremely punctual, organized, and clear about the structure of each engagement. Thus, those are the only clients that I need or want.

Mutual Gratitude and Respect

Lastly, I stick with clients that actually convey gratitude. I recently negotiated an IRS tax obligation for a client from $250,000 down to $100,000. The client was grateful, mentioning they felt I had given them their life back. It did make me feel like helping certain clients is worthy of my time and energy. On the contrary, I also helped another client that had lost their 501c(3) status. I wrote an appeal for them and was able to reinstate their not-for-profit status within three weeks. Instead of gratitude, their response was upsetting – they were upset they had to pay me to fix the problem when they could have received pro-bono assistance elsewhere. I no longer accept business from that second client, or other clients with similar work ethics. 

When I started accepting clients, I was open hearted with those who had issues managing debt, resolving problems with the IRS, and aspiring entrepreneurs who were clueless about the ins and outs of how to start a business. But I soon realized that because I wanted to help them, didn’t mean that they were appropriate candidates for my help. I’ve had numerous consultations with individuals that were unorganized, uninformed and ungrateful. I realized that the formula for my business growth and success was in sticking to compatible clients that I could maintain compassion for. Those are the clients that I seek, earn and enjoy working with. That is my best advice to myself in learning from my biggest mistake as an entrepreneur


About: Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, known as the Wealthy Yogi, is a mindful wealth multiplier, business strategist, and author of Budgeting is More Liberation than Limitation. She has developed a 5-step blueprint for mindful money management to show any entrepreneur how to create a stress free wealthy lifestyle. Through her books, programs and retreats, she has helped thousands of entrepreneurs achieve intentional personal success. She is currently booking speaking engagements for corporations and corporate groups. If your company or group has workshops around these topics for your employees, please contact her.