Where I live, it’s been smoke-free for quite a long time … so long I cannot really remember when the ordinances went into effect. It is one of those things I tend to take for granted anymore, it’s been in place so long.
Yesterday I met with a potential new client, a small business owner referred by another client from my former full-time job (I know – all my various jobs gets confusing), and from the tobacco hit I got from just meeting him I knew immediately he was a smoker.
Before we even left Starbucks after our meeting, he had a cigarette and lighter in hand and lit up as we as soon as we had cleared the door and were walking out to the parking lot. Wrapping up our conversation was maybe 5 or 6 minutes, during which time I watched him smoke and light up again at least 3 more cigarettes.
I know it probably shouldn’t, but it bothers me. A lot. I am reasonably sensitive to smells, and sitting there talking with him over coffee the smell of smoke from his clothes and the mixture of smoke and coffee from his breath was distracting in very bad ways.
This would be a good client and contract to have, so I cannot just reject him because he’s a smoker. In truth I will only have to interact with him in person a few times per year, the rest will be like most of my clients and via email, phone, text, mail, etc. He seemed thrilled to know I could do everything I need to do if he simply scans and emails documents to me, a pretty simple procedure anymore. So it’s not like I would have his smoke-drenched paperwork sitting in my home office.
A new situation and dilemma for me. “I’m sorry, I cannot take over your accounting because you’re a smoker and your paperwork literally stinks.” Sounds incredibly stupid inside my head and reads even worse in print. On a hopeful note, maybe he didn’t like me or my rates are too much or my references are overly enthusiastic and I am therefore too good to be true … maybe he will just reject me for no apparent reason.
Finding that right balance in seeking out and accepting new work is tough right now, and perhaps it always shall be until I get to the point of adding staff or declining new clients. Right now I refuse to turn away referrals without at least talking to the potential client about their needs, and ongoing contracts are always a good thing. And I am strengthening my backbone and going to cut ties with my former employer sooner rather than later and that will free up more of my weeks.
Worst case scenario, it’s not a big contract and is likely 3 or 4 hours per week once we get up and running. He will scan his documents over, and I can always keep any smoke-drenched paperwork out in the garage.
Of the things I thought would be an issue in self-employment, the habits of my potential clients really did not immediately come to mind. He was a nice guy, showed me pictures of his wife and 5 children. Now watching him chain smoke I wonder if will be around and in good enough health to see them grow up.