The Top 5 Small Business Pet Peeves (and How to Avoid Them)

Small business owners love clients.  They are the lifeblood of the company and ensure that employees are paid and the office lights are kept on.  However, there are some customers that entrepreneurs can do without.  Are you one of them?  Read on for the top 5 small business pet peeves and how to avoid them:

1. Not paying on time. This is likely the biggest pet peeve of all as it is a violation of trust.  The small business owner trusted that if he or she provided a product or service, it would be paid for in a timely manner.  By ignoring invoice reminders and missed payment phone calls, you not only brand yourself as a deadbeat client but you also jeopardize your credit score if the missed payment is taken to collections.

Solution: Let the company know upfront if you are having financial difficulties.  Because of the economy, many of us are taking a closer look at our finances.  If you realize after purchasing the product or service that you may have trouble paying on time, call the company.  Many times, it will be to accept a payment arrangement rather than not get paid at all.

2. Asking for discounted or free items.  Many small business owners are happy to offer freebies for long-term customers, but it’s in poor taste to ask someone you just met for a discounted product or service.  You may be seen as someone not serious about developing a genuine business relationship, especially because the cheapskate customers are often the most demanding.

Solution: If you are low on cash and have a viable product or service, offer a barter agreement instead.  Say you own a bakery and need a web site designed.  Perhaps you could offer your web designer some of his or her favorite treats in exchange for a professionally designed site.  Remember to get the barter agreement in writing upfront.  This way there will be no confusion in the value of services or what is being exchanged.

3. Wasting our time.  There’s an old saying that “Time is money.”  This is especially true for small business owners.  We understand that our product or service may not be your first choice and are happy to set up a consultation or have you browse our store.  The problem comes when you schedule multiple meetings or take up 30 minutes of our store clerk’s time only to leave us with, “Sorry, I’m not that interested.”

Solution: If you are only browsing and haven’t made up your mind on whether to buy that product or service, let the business owner know.  We will still engage you or offer a free consultation, but forgive us if we only have 15 minutes.  The other 45 must be spent on paying clients.

4. Getting too personal.  Sure, we love to discuss the weather and have small talk with clients, but we usually draw the line at personal email forwards and fundraising requests.  This goes back to pet peeve number two about wasting time, especially when it comes to unnecessary phone calls and chain emails.

Solution: When in doubt, ask for clarification.  Here are a couple of handy phrases that may help, “Is it alright if I add you to my personal email list? I usually send out prayer requests and inspirational forwards” or “My company is sponsoring a happy hour this week. Would you like to come as my guest?”  It is better to ask and get a “no” upfront than assume and get embarrassed later.  Usually the rejection is not personal.  Some entrepreneurs just make a point not to mix business with pleasure.

5. Not following directions and acting surprised at the outcome. This pet peeve appears in many forms: the customer who asked for a rush order and then complains after being charged a rush order fee, the web design client who submits content two weeks behind schedule and then becomes angry that the site was not launched on time, or even the customer who returns an item four months later and is upset when it’s not accepted (even when policy clearly states a 30 day return window).

Solution: Keep the lines of communication open.  As you engage with the small business, read every contract, browse the company’s web site and ask questions to make sure all policies are understood.  This way you can avoid confusion later on.

Follow these tips to make sure you don’t become fodder for the next, “I Can’t Believe My Customers Did That!” email.  Have you witnessed other pet peeves as a small business owner?  If so, leave them in the comments section below.

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog,

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  1. Good article. As a small business owner I've run into plenty of clients who fall into these pet peeves. I'd love to see a follow-up article about how to avoid these type of situations.

  2. Thanks David! It looks like I’ll need to write a “How to Fire a Client (Gracefully)” follow-up article. 🙂

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