When I think of the partnership between the OBM and the business owner I think: marriage. Now maybe this is because I have been married for almost 20 years and it’s the only parallel I know in which to describe the partnership with the OBM and a business owner. So when I hear something has happened and they are no longer working together I think: hmm wonder why they broke up. 😉
The truth is that a business “breakup” is just as unpleasant as a relationship break up. Especially if the two have been working together for a long period of time. Emotions are raw and feelings can often get hurt. It is no easy thing to endure one of these business breakups, and I would desire to protect every Online Business Manager in our community from ever having to experience one. But I know that simply is not possible, and quite frankly, although difficult, it can be the best think to have happen.
So let’s look at why these breakups happen anyway… why do clients fire OBMs? (And let me add… sometimes the OBM fires the client, but that’s a whole different article. ;-))
Reason #1 OBMs Get Fired…
…simply put, they were not the right fit for the position to begin with. Just as every business owner is unique in their skillset, strengths and experiences, so is every OBM. When a pairing happens that is not the right fit from the beginning, then very soon the relationship will dissolve.
This will happen when a business owner hires an OBM that is the exact strengths and skills as they are. When business owners think they need to multiply themselves, they are not always wise in discerning that actually what they need to cover are the areas where they are weak, not the areas where they are strong. Often the areas we are strong are the areas we are not going to easily delegate. They are the areas where we will be the most critical of others, and they are the areas of work that we enjoy doing. So when a business owner hires an OBM with the exact same strengths, it will not take long before the two of them are having to play tug of war with decisions and expectations. Not a good space to be in.
Being unequally yoked, if I may, also happens when there is an extreme difference between the OBM and the business owner. This happens when, let’s say, the business owner is a fly by the seat of their pants, shoot from the hip, everything last minute, needs no information to make a decision kinda of business manager and they partner with an OBM who is a precise, process driven, containing, detailed person. One extreme to the other will never bid well in this type of relationship.
So to ensure you are not on a path to breakup from the get-go, become very clear in how you function as an OBM, and then partner with a business owner who is 3-5 degrees different than you… not the same as you and not the opposite of you. (LOL this works well in marriage too.)
Reason #2 OBM’s Get Fired…
…because there is not a defined role description of what is expected of the OBM. Many times when we get started with clients, the ol’ “Hero Syndrome” kicks in right from the beginning, and the OBM will jump in to save the day in all aspects of what needs to get done. Put out all fires, fix all process and team issues, etc. Also, in those first few months, the OBM is in the learning curve place and often will be overly available to the client.
At this point it looks like ALL roads lead to the OBM… but the truth is that no one should carry that load at that level. So the OBM will either start dropping balls because of overload/overwhelm, or start backing away with boundaries to regain their sanity. Either way, now the lines of who is responsible for what are very blurred.
Without clearly defined expectations from the beginning, the business owner can “assume” expectations which may or may not actually meet the definition of what the OBM feels is their role. Or the OBM may assume expectations that the business owner isn’t looking for. Either way, this is often what I hear from both sides when a breakup comes. Either the OBM wasn’t meeting expectations, or they did early on in the relationship but then shifted. And when the shift happened, the business owner no long felt fully supported.
To keep the scope creep at bay and confidently execute what is expected, define your OBM role and duties from the get-go.
Reason #3 OBMs Get Fired…
…when the OBM is transitioning from the VA to the OBM there is a mindset shift that HAS to happen or else the breakup comes. This shift is moving from being that “support – how can I help you” mindset to the “leader – this is what needs to be done” mindset. This can be a tough transition. Especially since, as OBMs, we come from a very supportive motivation. Essentially we want to “help” our client be successful.
Even with this “help” mentality, we have to show up and execute as partners, decision makers and the person who has the clear plan for how to execute the desires of the business owner. If we are in the “wait and see what they need” state of mind, we will very quickly be seen as a VA and treated as such.
Truly, breaking the habit of being the “support” to being a true advocate for the business took a bit of time and some purposeful work on my behalf. If you find this to be a not-so-easy transition, just know it wasn’t for me either, or many others. Easy or not, it is desperately needed both for your own growth and for the growth of the business.
The way you can begin to break this habit is to start asking yourself: “how do I want this to go, be done, playout, etc.”? Have a vision for what you would like to see happen, then work with your client to merge your visions together to ensure all the bases are covered. Please note that when I say “vision,” I am not talking about the vision for your client’s business. That is theirs to come up with. I am talking about a clear plan of how you want to execute the desired result.
Reason #4 OBMs Get Fired…
…due to a lack of proactivity! The number 1 reason business owners start to reach out for an OBM is because they recognize they are the bottleneck to the business moving forward proactively. Even if they have no experience or understanding of how to grow the business in a proactive state, they do expect that the OBM will be able to.
Literally 8 out of 10 times I ask a business owner why they broke up with their OBM, I will hear:
“I had to chase them down to get things done. I expected they would be chasing me down, but instead, I had to chase them down; they were not proactive about anything.”
Ouch!! I can tell you this is a hot button for me because of both sides of the coin. From the OBM’s point of view, likely the hot mess they walked into and the lack of planning for the current everyday ins and outs of the business likely left them with little time to be proactive. And since I mentioned time, don’t get me started on the fact that many OBMs are still trying to work with clients on a very broken dollar-for-hour model in which you are literally paid to hit the hot spots and move on. So I get where the breakdown is with being able to successfully be proactive.
But on the side of the business owner, if the OBM is essentially an overpaid VA, I can see where their frustration might come from as well. Either way, this is a HOT Topic for clients and they are truly drawing a line in the sand around how well their OBMs can move the business to a proactive state (regardless of the business owner’s own bent toward all that is reactive).
Keep the 3 Ps of proactivity handy and always ask yourself: have we planned, processed, THEN performed this task?
Reason #5 OBMs Get Fired…
…the disappearing act… and truly, if you are one of those OBMs who takes the money and runs, you do not want to connect with me in a dark alley! This is the worst of the worst that gets done in our industry. Sadly enough, the fact that I even have to mention it makes me a little sick to my stomach. But the reality is, it does happen.
Rightfully enough, the client will fire the OBM! With any luck at all, they will fire the OBM, then come and tell us that was their experience, and we will do everything in our power to protect the industry from folks like them.
If you’re in over your head, said yes to a situation you don’t know how to get out of, or just overbooked yourself, please, please, please, give people their money back and let them move on to to someone who can truly support them the way that they need it. Because the OBM who does this may not know, and I personally feel likely doesn’t care, but this behavior hurts the whole industry with that lack of integrity toward the work we do!
Well there you go… this is why OBMs are getting fired – some you can fix, some you can’t! I encourage you to go out there and rock your expertise with the best of your ability. My guess is you will end up in a great business marriage one day (even if it’s not today, after all, we had to kiss a few frogs before we found Mr/Mrs Right).