Your 22-year-old daughter asks you where she should take her car to get the brakes fixed. If you're a father or mother, you probably just felt your pulse quicken. Your eyes opened a bit wider. Those are natural physiological responses to danger, and bad brakes in your daughter's car are certainly a threat.
How do you go about answering her?
You know she doesn't have much disposable income. She's been working part-time since graduating college in May. You also know she doesn't know much about cars or service stations. You've always handled that for her.
Now, she's a grown-up and wants to take control of her life. But she wants your advice because she trusts you.
Do you tell her to save money by taking it to a guy who does brake jobs and lawn mower repair on the side? Or do you give her the number to the best shop in the area, which is a little expensive, but has a reputation as the best in the business?
Even if you have to help her out financially, you insist she takes her car to the best garage in town, don't you?
Next question: when a client asks you if you'd like to bid on a project that's a little outside your typical work, do you hold yourself to the same standard as you hold your mechanic?
In other words, if you know you're the equivalent of the guy who does brake jobs on the side, would you recommend yourself to a valued client?
In business, it's tempting to chase every dollar. It's also tempting to believe you can do anything. So when a client asks about some new business, it's tempting jump at the chance and hope you can pull it off. Protect yourself with contract language. Manage the client's expectations.
What if that client was your daughter's company? What if she were the manager responsible for this major purchase?
If your company isn't the best in the business of what your daughter needs, would you risk your reputation and her career just to get this deal?
I've adopted a new standard when considering requests from clients: "Am I the best person in the world to deliver this project for this company?"
If the answer is "no," then thank the client for considering your firm and offer to help them select the best. At least let them know you don't think you're the best company for this particular work. Let them know you'd love to work with them on the project, but advise your client that you'll need their close support and maybe a little patience. "If that scares you, I'll help you find a better supplier."
If you feel it's too hard to walk away from the money, pretend the client is your son or daughter and ask again. Unless you're a psychopath, you'll do the right thing.
P.S. If you find yourself consistently sending business elsewhere, maybe it's time you improved your product and services. You've got to be the best in the world at something.