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Do you have demanding customers? Then rejoice because this is the best way to learn and progress! The self-employed in general and company managers in particular know or feel this every day, as unlike employees who have a direct superior, we have as many managers as we have customers, particularly when we have a wide customer-base. The art of being a product or service provider lies in adapting to our customers’ expectations. If such customisation is achieved, this is the ultimate reward, because satisfaction on both sides is total.

“Let’s be demanding, let’s ask the impossible” is a slogan that still resounds in our ears. If it is pleasant to deal with someone with whom we have an affinity, it is also salutary to go out of our comfort zone thanks to, or because of, a different client. Let’s see why.

It’s the most demanding customers who prevent you from getting into ruts or resting on your laurels. They’ve seen a product at a better price from your long-time competitor, they force you to deliver in a timescale that seems unreasonable to you and they make your after-sales service operate like never before? Admit it, they represent a minority in your customer-base. Therefore, accept them as they are instead of grumbling about what you see as a lack of organisation or abuse, and you’ll make your life much easier. In fact, there’s no point in robbing yourself, except to make them leave.

On the contrary, showing that you understand their situation, their approach to business and the pressure your clients are under will calm the context and finish with you entrenched as a solid and reliable partner even in a storm. By explaining (only if the opportunity arises) the best you can bring to the table in optimised circumstances – more time available often equals better quality than just-in-time production, for example – the client may just end up listening to you.

Most of the time you will not change your customer’s working procedures. Tell yourself that’s fine. You learn to evolve, adapt and improve your know-how. Perhaps at the time it is to be viewed as an accelerator of excellence, a painful pill, but considered with sufficient detachment, it will become an incentive that will force you firstly to retrench, then push you to go harder, faster, higher. It is in adversity and testing circumstances that the best navigators prove themselves. The same is undoubtedly true in business management. Anyone who is also resilient in this area rises up with renewed strength and a firm intention not to make the same mistake twice.

So, once you have got over the discouragement or irritation you feel when faced with a customer who seems to be asking you for heaven and earth, ask yourself if the challenge is not all the more interesting because it is innovative, higher each time perhaps but for a good reason, that of making progress. It is precisely this reason that allows you to keep your curiosity alive, to have the spirit of a beginner and the experience of the old sea wolf. So, as Nelson Mandela used to say in a very different context, let’s never stop repeating the mantra that suits the life of the self-employed so well, “Either I win or learn”.