Let’s talk about boundaries and bullies in business.

 Years ago, when I was launching a new business designing chairs, I attended a marketing seminar in a fancy hotel run by a marketing expert. Let’s call him Dr Marcus; he really does call himself Dr, though of course I have changed his name (a bit).

I’d signed up thinking I was attending an actual marketing seminar, where I was going to learn something valuable. Back then, I wasn’t aware of these high-pressure sales events dressed up as educational events. How naive!

I was running 5 minutes late and his PA called me on my mobile, asking if I was still coming or I’d be locked out of the event….that should have been a red flag already!

So, I scurried and hurried along the cold, dark winter streets and came screeching into the venue all puffed out. No way was I going to miss out on such an eminent professor’s seminar.

 For the next 2 hours, he used what I now know to be NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) tactics to make us feel we were special and astute; not like the herd out there, who couldn’t be bothered to attend this event. They would surely fail in business due to their lazy attitude. Not us, though. We were like him; clever.

Oh, how he told us how clever he was. How successful. How his methods were the only way to reach his dizzy heights of achievement. If we bought his $10k VIP program – hurry, hurry, run to the back of the room & sign up tonight.

Slowly my hackles started to rise. I felt deeply uncomfortable. My gut instinct was kicking in; this guy was off.

Then it happened. He singled me out from the crowd; I’d say there were 50 of us in the room.

“Stand up; tell everyone about yourself & what your business is.”

So I stood up, introduced myself and briefly explained about my custom-designed fabrics & chairs.

“I’ve checked your business out {of course he had – he was very well prepped} and I think what you’re doing is genius and you have what it takes to succeed,” he gushed. OK, I’m paraphrasing here but you get my gist. #inserteyeroll 🙄​​​​​​​

“Let’s make a deal, just you and me,’ he continued with his charming smile plastered on his chiselled features. “I’ll give you FREE access to my VIP program. A seat at the table at every VIP event. In exchange for you designing a chair for my wife. She’d just love your designs, and so will all her friends.”

I was gobsmacked. And not in a good way. How dare he put me on the spot like this in public, where it was almost impossible to say No?!

Despite beginning to shake as my adrenaline kicked in, I am no wall-flower. I really don’t care if I go against the status quo.

So I did.

“I don’t barter or do contras, I’m sorry. But I’d be happy to design a chair for your wife as a customer.”

The room fell very silent. I could feel the tension.

“You’ll regret that decision. You have just missed out on a great opportunity. I am very well connected.”

I. KID. YOU. NOT. He said those EXACT words. I am not paraphrasing. What a sleaze-bag. What a bully.

To this day, I am SO happy I enforced my business and personal boundaries and stopped this bully in his tracks.

Have you ever been asked to work for free in exchange for a ‘marvellous’ opportunity or exchange of services that felt out of alignment? Do you have boundaries in your business and personal life to help you in these situations?

Don’t be afraid to enforce them when you feel they are being undermined. You don’t need to be a people pleaser. Listen to your instincts. It’s OK to stand up for yourself. Be polite, but be firm. You deserve better.

If boundaries and working for free are problems for you, don’t worry: I’ve got you. I have modules on Working For Free and Boundaries inside my mentoring program. Doors are always open at The Creative Business Hub.

Dr Marcus was wrong. I never did regret that decision! 🤣😎