Promises we really shouldn’t be making our clients

Talking absolutes and results we have no business promising our clients because those promises can’t account for all the many variables involved in being a human in business (and life).
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Last year my son, Finley, started swimming lessons. Twice a week. I had left it late* for a few reasons and, at the late-bloomer* age of 3, Finley needed* to learn how to be safe in water.

I promise I’m going to tie this back to business so stick around.

Anyways, it started off well. He adjusted nicely to the environment, he felt comfortable around his instructor and he got in the pool without me.I felt confident (partly because I had my personal worth tied up in him learning how to swim, why?!).

But after a month, I started to feel disappointment seep into those quarter-hours. I felt frustrated that he couldn’t actually swim yet. That he couldn’t float or stay above the water unassisted.

And I wanted a guarantee. I wanted his instructor to tell me exactly how many lessons he needed to have before he could achieve those things. I wanted certainty.

And for about another month, I coasted on this belief that it would just take another lesson, another two, okay maybe three, and he’d be there. He’d have the skill. He would have mastered it.

But as the lessons and weeks progressed, I began to realise that no guarantee was coming. That no one would make a promise of Finley learning how to swim after a specific number of lessons. No one. Not even the ‘experts’.

Why? Because how tf can you promise a specific outcome within a specific timeframe for a human? A human who has their own pace, abilities, mental and emotional landscape.

The instructors obviously knew this already, which is why they never made any promises in the first place. The problem was me, and I was late to the party. But why? Why was my default thinking that a step-by-step programme could come with a guarantee when there were just so many variables involved?

And a few weeks ago the penny finally dropped and I could zoom out and understand the provenance of this need for a guarantee.

So here’s the part where I tie this into our businesses.

We’ve been bombarded with promises of results. 10k launch if you take this course. Manifest everything you desire with this practice. Lose 10kg on this training plan. There are countless others but you see where I’m going with this.

We’ve been told, and have maybe been telling people, that if we insert ourselves into a formula we’d get a result. A result none of us have any business promising because we can’t fucking guarantee an absolute outcome.

Because the outcome is unique to the person. And their circumstance, environment, life experiences, trauma, physical and mental capabilities. Their resources and access to external resources.

So let me put my hand up and say “I’ve done this”. I’ve made promises in the hopes of making a sale. I’ve used the narrative of absolutes and formulas. Even while not ever believing it, while knowing it didn’t align with my values. Because it’s just how it’s done.

There is just no.fucking.way I can guarantee you increased profitability. None. And setting up that expectation is dangerous. And if you’ve heard me say it and it didn’t sit well with you either, I’m sorry.

Of course, increased profitability can be great, if that’s what you want. And it’s a likely outcome when you honour your purpose and vision, understand who your people are and weave yourself and your experiences into your brand story. But they’re not the only factors that contribute to it.

Marketing plays a part in it. Energy and capacity too. And, of course, support in the ways you need it, like childcare and gender equality vs expectations in your home.  

So, I’ve retired all grand promises that I have no business making and am not able to be in charge of keeping.

Will you join me in this — creating a community that focuses on and honours our many human variables and individuality? Let’s start small (lol) and use our voices on Instagram together.

Ps swimming lessons are, in South Africa, inextricably tied to privilege, access and resources. The pressure we experience to enroll our children does often not account for this. Learning to swim at 3 years old is fine. Just as is every year before and after or never at all if you don’t want to. * denotes the conventional narrative around swimming.

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Promises we really shouldn’t be making our clients
Promises we really shouldn’t be making our clients
Promises we really shouldn’t be making our clients
Promises we really shouldn’t be making our clients

Hi, I’m the author, Lorin

I love supporting you bring confidence, clarity and growth to a business already filled with so much meaning and love.

If you’re filled with ambition and purpose and looking for branding and business support that helps you achieve your vision, you’re in the right place.

I’m a brand and website designer with an approach centred on intimacy, so you’ll see that word a lot here.

I’m also a red wine enthusiast, amateur vegetable gardener, mom to an adventurous 5 year old, whippet lover with a thing for ginger cats and Cape Town local who loves the ocean.

Read more about me ⟶
Lorin Galloway branding and websites for small businesses with heartLorin Galloway strategist and designer for small business owners