Nice But Not Too Nice

Nice But Not Too Nice

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There are some people in this world who are truly nice people. Another term still sometimes used is ‘one of nature’s gentlemen’. They are people you instinctively trust, they are always pleasureto meet anddo business with; and if you have ever worked for one of them it was probably one of the best work environments ever. There should be more of them in this world: the rest of us can only try. But is there such a thing as being too nice?In the world of commerce there may be.

Problems with Being Too Nice

Tackling basic issues such as how to improve cash flow in small business canoftenbe a problem for someone who is overly concerned about the feelings of others and tends to avoid confrontations. Yet the most effective way of increasing the inflow of cashinvolves managing invoices and making sure they are paid promptly. There are ways to do this very nicely of course. Offering a discount for payment within 7 days for example can be a very successful strategy. But it isn’t always enough and then the debtor needs to be contacted and the payment firmly pursued. However it is worth noting that people are more likely to pay promptly, or at least respond to a personal follow up, if they really like the person they owe money to. So a certain level of niceness is a definite plus.

Nice But Not Too Nice

There can be similar problems with another oft recommended strategy designed to slow the flow of money out of a business: deferring payment of creditors; or at least those that aren’t offering a discount for early payment or charging penalties for late payment. People who don’t like confrontation will cave in to pressure very quickly, usually on the first call they receive.

Niceness doesn’t mean weakness; it’s just that these nicest of people have other priorities. One of their most appealing attributes is that money isn’t their primary motivation, they care about people; they are empathetic and altruistic. But this means they are disinclined to raise their charges even when their costs increase, especially for regular clients/ customers. They may also be reluctant to ask for money in the first place and delayeven sendinginvoices. All these can create serious cash flow problems.

Managing the Problems

There are ways though to offset problems caused by being too nice. One of these is to employ someone else to handle the finances, chase up overdue accounts and deal with creditors. It’s the commercial equivalent of good cop, bad cop. It leaves the small business owner free to get on with the work, and continue to deal with their clients/ customers in their usual amicable manner, referring on any issues over invoicing. The strategy should also include setting up a system for managing invoices, covering everything from the terms of the contract and the time and manner of issuing of invoices to the collection of debts. This of course doesn’t mean the business owner isn’t involved in the finances of the business, just that they aren’t the public face of the finance department.

Advantages of Being Nice

Nice people do have a number of advantages in business. People like working for them and they have the potential to attract and retain good employees. This means they don’t have the costs associated with high staff turnover and don’t have to pay excessive salaries. Employees who like their boss and their work environment and feel their work is appreciated,identify more strongly with the business, and tend to be more motivated and more productive. However staff will also take advantage of their boss’s good natureat times, and nice people can find it almost impossibleto fire anyone or even issue a strong reprimand. Here also it may be advisable to have someone else handle HR.

It is very hard to dislike anyone who really likes you and it is almost impossible not to like those who are especially nice. Nice people are almost certain to have a solid base ofrepeat clients/ customers and to get a regular flow of new work throughword of mouth. Their clients/ customers will tolerate delays and overlook any other faults far more readily with them than they would with anyone else.

They know, as we all do, how rare these genuinely nice people are; andwouldn’t want them to be other than what they are. But there are as many problems associated with being too nice as there are with not being nice enough. As for the rest of us, it is certainly worthwhilemaking an extra effort to be nice to customers, clients, suppliers and staff. Nice, but not too nice.