It’s been three years since I went out on my own and started my own business. And I love it! But . . .
Hands down, one of the most frustrating things I have experienced is the lack of commitment from others. I usually don’t write controversial blog posts, but after three years, maybe it’s time.
I believe: Your word should mean something. Commit. Don’t Commit. But Let us Know.
When I started my career, I started with a large CPA firm. I then then went to a corporation and other larger small businesses. Of course, each company had pros and cons. The CPA firm and the corporation had many cons, but at least — deadlines meant something. They actually meant a lot.
Commit. Your word should mean something?
I believe in saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
Commit … Follow-through
I believe in follow-through. A key employee of mine years ago would tell the new hires “Barb will work with you, train you, help you, talk with you. But if she says she needs something Friday at 2:00, you need to get it to her or give her enough notice”. My brother has also told family that “Barb is good to have on your side, she is like a bull dog, she will help you”. A colleague said to me “when you make a goal, you really take it seriously.”
So, Yes, this is my strong belief.
Sure, there are Exceptions
Let me also say, I’m not callous. I understand that we are all human. We can’t be perfect. I understand when we have children, spouses, friends, family … sometimes something has to give. Sometimes we forget. Problems happen and sometimes situations are out of our control. So, sometimes we need to cancel a meeting at the last minute. And there may be times we can’t hit a deadline. But the keyword is … sometimes.
Exceptions should be … Exceptions?
Again, I am not callous and understand exceptions. I also realize not everyone is “bull dog”. But … once you commit, shouldn’t exceptions be exceptions . . . not the rules? Then if you can’t keep a commitment, shouldn’t you consider the other people and give enough notice?
But I have noticed that with some business people, the exceptions ARE the rules. The cancellations and excuses are more often than the follow-throughs. The mantra at times seems to be “Any excuse is a good excuse”.
This is what I have seen with vendors using the “Any excuse is a Good excuse”: they say something will be done; they say they will call . . . and then nothing. Literally nothing. It’s not done and they don’t call.
Have to spend more time
The problem: I have to spend my time in managing another company’s obligation even though I am paying them and it’s their job. A simple call saying “I won’t be calling Thursday as planned. It won’t be done but here is an idea” would help.
I remember learning at my first job: Never take a problem to my boss without a solution. Is that belief still alive?
Commit or Lose Trust
The most recent example: I had to order a different credit card because I needed one with no international fees. I am usually early on tasks. But this time I wasn’t extremely early and needed to depend on the bank to keep their promise. I called the bank and the last thing they said to me was “You WILL receive the card in 5-7 days”. I then quickly called my vendor from the UK and told them I would call a certain day and pay them. Great.
The day came and no card. I called the bank back. The customer rep didn’t explain what was going on but said:”Wait another 5-7 days”. I asked for a manager. She finally explained that when my card was processed they, for whatever reason, put the card through a fraud check. She explained that their bank is very careful and really takes fraud protection seriously.
Here’s the problem I told her: As thankful as I am for their process, I now have to either make a payment with my existing card and get hit with $80 international fees or tell the company I committed to pay today that it won’t happen. I may break their trust in me. Now, excuse mantra people may say: “So what, just don’t pay. Things happen.” But I like to get paid, so I bet the company I owed, also likes to get paid.
I like to build relationships with trust. They did good work for me. I don’t want to break trust with them. Isn’t that important?
P.S. there was a good ending. The manager ultimately understood my dilemma and sent a card with overnight delivery. I spent extra time and finally found someone at the credit card bank who cared and understood issues of commitment.
I have some great colleagues. They are bright, talented, and do what they say they are going to do. But others … I have often thought “What is going on? Can I trust what they say?”
Someone Has to Pick up the Pieces
I have heard this: “My business and family have to come first.” I have heard that from members in a business group. The odd thing is that I usually hear that when they break a commitment at the last minute.
I love my family and do believe my family and business are vitally important. I’ve cancelled appointments family member were rushed to the hospital. I’ve rearranged my schedule when my adorable son or daughter had a performance or to take a trip with my husband. But I never felt the need to say “My business and family have to come first”.
When I make a commitment, I start with looking at my calendar before I commit. As times goes on, if I end up having to leave a business group because of my business and family, I explain to the group that I can’t continue to make the commitment and I try to give them reasonable notice.
It’s interesting, when I’ve heard colleagues say “My business and family have to come first”, it was usually in the middle of their commitment to a group project as they quit the group with no notice. I and others were left to pick up the pieces. It was as though they were saying: their family is important and they can leave us hanging with no notice; we’ll have to step in and do double the work since they won’t even help transition their commitment. I was left thinking: “But what about my family?” I also wondered: how do they handle business clients if they need to cancel. Do they offer a solution to their client or do they walk away?
Rescheduling Affects Others
The most recent issue was in a business group when for months we all committed to attend 75% of the time (note it was an easier twice a month instead of the normal weekly meeting commitment). But one member came 25% of the time. Another member was starting to hit 40-50% of the time. Finally, after months of consistency getting worse and not better, I wrote them all: “Let’s make a fresh plan”. I explained that constant rescheduling, and cancelling was difficult.
There had been many excuses from members: “I forgot it was my child’s birthday”, “I am thinking of going to a special city fun event – but not sure yet”, “I just can’t again” (even though this member had only attended one meeting in the last two months), and “My husband just told me we have plans with friends”.
The end result: even though they had committed, they never really did.
Throughout my stories, I kept thinking: “Communicate. Tell us the truth. Commit or Don’t … but don’t say you commit if you don’t commit. Don’t make the exceptions the rules.”
And I also believe: if you have to cancel, if possible, come up with a solution.
Yes, I do love owning my business. But I do know working with colleagues and vendors who do what they say they are going to do is a lot easier. Lessons learned: I will understand that no business can be perfect, but I am choosing to work with the businesses who’s word means something.
Who thought, all these years later, the quote from Yoda can have a great impact on our business:
“Do or Do Not. There is No Try.”