Do you struggle with setting boundaries? After coaching business owners for nearly 9 years now, I’ve found that many do, including myself.

Here are some examples of boundary issues in business:

  • An owner client continuously calls after hours and expects you to return the call.
  • An owner client/resident pops into the office or calls and wants to discuss an issue now.
  • A vendor keeps promising to drop off an invoice for a move out and deposit return but never shows up.
  • Your priority is to get new property management agreements to owners, but every time you put it on your calendar, something else gets in the way.

These are ALL boundary related issues.

There are boundaries that need to be set and adhered to with clients AND there are boundaries that need to be set and adhered to with yourself.

And what’s even more challenging: There are consequences that need to be put in place when boundaries are consistently violated.

Boundary work often does not feel good at first, especially for kind-hearted, compassionate property managers or business owners who want to serve their clients.

Yet boundary work is so important — not only to operating your business, but to create an atmosphere of respect and trust — both with your clients and with yourself.

If you have work to do on boundaries in your business, you’re not alone!

Why set boundaries in business

Boundaries in business can allow you to show up as your best self and have high-functioning relationships with your clients. As a business owner and leader, you know how important it is to operate at your best. Using your experience, listening skills, and ability to guide others through a difficult situation all require that you are calm and present.

In order to function at your best and have the greatest impact on your clients, setting business boundaries is a must.

Setting strong boundaries in your business allows you to put the guidelines in place so that you AND your business keep running smoothly — without burning out.

What are business boundaries?

The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines boundaries as:

  • a psychological demarcation that protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity

Simply put, business boundaries are guidelines that you put in place so that you can protect the time, energy, and respect of both you and your clients.

Examples of business boundary issues:

  • A client continuously shows up to the office and then expects you to stop what you are doing to meet with them, but you haven’t communicated this is a problem.
  • You have a resident who always pays a day late despite knowing the lease terms — and expects you to make an exception each and every time.
  • You have a weekly staff meeting and it never fails that the same person monopolizes the group discussion, leaving no space for others.
  • Your big goal is to put in place your marketing plan to grow your business, but you just can’t seem to find time in your schedule to do it. Every time you put it on your calendar, something else gets in the way.

In each of these cases, a boundary issue is present. Often the issue is with others, and sometimes the boundary issue is with ourselves (such as when we aren’t following through on our own commitments.)

Setting boundaries in your business helps you protect your time and energy and manage your client relationships. When you’re proactive about setting boundaries, you avoid things like burnout, miscommunication, and upset clients.

What happens when you don’t have business boundaries

When you don’t have any (or strong enough) boundaries in your business, you can suffer on many fronts.

If you don’t have strong business boundaries, you might feel:

  • Constantly “put out” or taken advantage of by requests from others
  • Resentful of clients and others who keep asking for things
  • Like you’re near burnout or break down at any given time
  • Like your sleep, health, and other parts of your life are suffering

The benefits of setting boundaries in business

When you’re a business owner, it’s your responsibility to protect your own resources and manage your relationships with your clients.

When you do:

  • You protect your values and what is important to you (you aren’t compromising) and are able to leverage your strengths to the best of your ability.
  • You better manage your own time and energy — and your productivity increases.
  • You strengthen your client relationships and build trust by being transparent.

You also feel more empowered, strong, and even more professional when you have firm boundaries in your business — and that energy emanates outwards.

Why boundaries are important in property management

Property Management is all about 1:1 services that rely on you forming a relationship with your client. Any relationship needs strong boundaries to survive, especially close relationships like those established with the business owner, property manager or team leader.

Boundaries help both people in relationship and they help protect the relationship itself. With boundaries, we can establish a sense of trust and safety which is integral to these client relationships.

As the business owner, you are responsible for setting the boundaries with clients and for your business. You’re responsible for business boundaries such as:

 Payment terms: 

  • When and how a client will pay you if funds are needed
  • What happens if a payment is late


  • Setting expectations for how you do business and what you expect from them as a client – owner, resident, vendor, employee.
  • What the consequences are if expectations aren’t met.

Communication Guidelines: 

  • Can a client call outside of business hours, and if so, when? When can they expect to hear back?
  • What topics are open for discussion and which are you not comfortable addressing (and in that case, may refer a client to an expert such as an attorney or CPA)?

Handling issues:

  • What happens when a client has an issue or complaint?
  • What happens when you have an issue with the client or want to end services?

These are just some of the common scenarios that you’ll want to prepare for in your business and set and communicate boundaries proactively.

3 phases of setting boundaries with clients

There are 3 phases of setting boundaries, in business and otherwise.

Phase 1: Setting the boundary.

This phase requires you to get clear on what your boundary actually is. Remember you get to create them for your business, for example:

  • Do you have a 24-hour communication response policy or a 48- hour one or a next business day one?
  • What happens if a client chooses not to continue working together?
  • What happens if a client is unresponsive?
  • What happens if a client violates your policies?
  • What happens if a client is abusive or overly demanding?

These are boundaries you get to set as a business owner, so be proactive and think about how you want things to run.

Phase 2: Communicating the boundary.

This phase is about communicating the boundary to your clients. It’s not enough to just have a policy. You must communicate that policy and ideally, get the client’s agreement to that policy.

At minimum you want to have a client agreement that outlines how these types of issues are addressed. You may want to communicate the policies again in a client welcome guide. In some cases, you may want to communicate the policies verbally to the client in your first meeting. Be as clear as possible and communicate in as many ways as you can. For example, you have a phone call, followed up by an email outlining the call and the action items, and ask for confirmation and agreement. This can eliminate confusion later on in the client relationship.

Phase 3: Enforcing consequence of boundary violations.

This phase is about enforcing consequences when the boundaries you’ve set are violated. Many times, this is the phase where most people struggle.

What happens if a client (vendor) continuously is late with their invoices? You want to consider proactive strategies for managing these issues. This could look like:

  • The first time a client is late with invoices, it’s a friendly reminder and reiteration of your policy.
  • The second time, they won’t get paid until the following month.
  • The third time, you might consider ending the relationship.

Only you can set the consequences for you and your business. It’s important to remember that even if you set consequences, you can still decide what to do on a case-by-case basis. But it is much easier to have a policy and consequences in place rather than decide on the fly when your boundary is violated, and the emotional stakes are high.

The emotional aspect of setting boundaries

Having your boundaries in place and communicating your policies is pretty cut and dry. But what about the emotions that can arise around setting boundaries in the first place?

Many of us were never taught to set boundaries (or in fact, our boundaries were repeatedly violated by others), so we feel uncomfortable doing so. But boundaries are an important part of respecting yourself and respecting others.

If you are struggling with strong emotions around setting boundaries, I recommend the following:

  • Do some work around strengthening your self-worth. Boundaries are inherently about knowing we are valuable and protecting that value. The more you can strengthen your own sense of self-worth, the easier it will be to create boundaries that serve you.
  • Explore your people-pleasing tendencies. People pleasers often subjugate their own needs in favor of serving others. If you resonate with this, you most likely adapted this behavior in childhood. Remind yourself that your own needs are important and advocate for them.
  • Examine your belief about the client relationship. When someone pays you, that doesn’t mean you need to be constantly available or at their beckon call. It means they are paying you money in exchange for your services. That’s why you want to clearly define the services you’re providing, so you don’t go outside your scope.

Often the emotional consequences of setting boundaries can hold us back more than setting the boundary itself. Give yourself grace as you navigate this area and be ok with feeling uncomfortable. This is a new skill you are developing.

How to set boundaries in your business

When it comes to setting business boundaries, you want to think about the boundaries you set in your relationships with clients, partners, and employees (if you have them). You also want to think about the boundaries you set with yourself.

Setting boundaries with clients 

We all know we need to set clear boundaries with clients, but so often usually do so reactively, meaning after something has gone wrong. Unfortunately, that puts us in a position of either needing to ask forgiveness for not communicating a boundary up front, or worse, fulfilling their request even when it means making a compromise we don’t want to make.

The key is to set expectations ahead of time, clearly communicate them, and most importantly, enforce them with natural consequences.

Examples of setting boundaries with clients:

  • Communicating clear expectations, in your contracts and verbally. Spell out things like when to expect a response to an email, what happens if they’re late or don’t show up, and what is expected of your client throughout your work together.
  • Letting clients know when a request is outside your initial scope of work and either renegotiating or saying no if it’s something you can’t or don’t want to do.
  • Not taking on clients that you either can’t or don’t want to work with. This is so important! It doesn’t serve you nor your client when you take someone on that you can’t / don’t want to work with.

Setting boundaries with yourself

It’s no secret: The better you take care of yourself, the better you can serve. In that way, boundaries are a form of self-care.

Setting boundaries with yourself means paying attention to yourself and your needs, including:

  • Tuning into what you really need. Every day, ask yourself, what do I need right now? It could be water, rest, a walk around the block, or something else.
  • Prioritizing quality over quantity. The ideal amount of clients is the number of clients you can serve intentionally while allowing plenty of time to tend to yourself.  Find your sweet spot and stay there.
  • Stop comparing and “shoulding” all over yourself. Just because another business owner can go live on Facebook all day and pull 10-hour workdays doesn’t mean you should.
  • Do more by doing less. Focus on the few key important things and don’t worry about the rest. Save your energy for what’s most important. The work will always be there.

Examples of setting boundaries with yourself:

  •     Setting a work schedule and sticking to it
  •     Saying “no” to things that aren’t on your priority list
  •     Not taking on more clients when you’re at your max
  •     Not overscheduling yourself with calls and meetings
  •     Not giving free consulting or showing up anytime you are asked. It doesn’t always have to be you carrying the load.

Keeping your word and your commitments to yourself is part of boundary work. It also reinforces that you can show up for yourself.

Business boundaries allow you to show up as your best self

Remember, you weren’t put on this earth to serve everyone’s needs, but to do what you do best. To do that, you must set boundaries.

You can make a bigger difference in the lives of your clients and in the world when you show up as your most powerful self. And boundaries can help you do that.

As your own boss, it’s up to you to ensure you’re taking care of yourself and that you’re serving clients from a place of energy and power, not a place of burnout and resentment.

When you communicate clear guidelines with clients, you manage expectations, create clarity, and trust in the relationship, and build stronger relationships.

Guest Contributor – Stacey Hagen 

She can be reached at This article has been customized for the professional property manager and property management business owner.