Principles and policies exist to create barriers. Sometimes barriers are a good thing. Sometimes they help keep bad things from happening. For example, the nurse asks you for you name and birthdate, and confirms your wrist band before giving you medication. The policy is designed to prevent the wrong medication from going to the wrong person - which could certainly be very bad.
In fact, in a hospital, that type of poilcy is what is known as a "red rule." Red rules are policies that cannot be broken for any reason because someone could die. These are the policies that, though they might be inconvenient, are important enough to stick to, no matter what. You don't get to take a baby out of the nursery without a matching ID band, no matter what.
On the other hand, there are "blue rules." These are policies that are important, but if you break one, no one dies. "Only one visitor at a time." Sure, this policy is important, and there's a good reason it exists. But it's a "blue rule," and breaking it isn't likely to result in an immediate crisis.
The problem with many businesses is that we have a lot of BLUE rules that we treat like RED rules. Certainly you've experienced this somewhere:
- There will be a $0.25 charge for extra BBQ sauce.
- If you'd like to pay cash for your gas, you must come inside and pay first.
- You can't return this without a receipt
I wonder how our clients feel when they hear:
- There will be an additional $25 charge for each additional person in your portrait session.
- If you want to contact me, you have to use the form on my website only.
- I have a clause in my contract that if anyone else dares to take a photo at your wedding, I walk.
These policies all exist to help a photography business operate more efficiently and effectively - but none of them are RED rules. When we treat them like they are - no one wins. Not the client, not the business, and not us. It doesn't mean you shouldn't have policies - you absolutely should. It does mean that it's worth considering some policies can be bent or broken, and no one will die.
Except maybe our ego.
What do you think? When is it okay to break your own rules?