Nowadays, time is definitely of the essence. Even though different countries mean different time expectations. For instance, in Germany, if you are late (even a few minutes) at an appointment, this will be highly frowned upon and be considered as disrespectful. Time is also really important in New York, it’s not a coincidence that the expression “a New York minute” was coined, because everything goes faster there (apart from the subway). Reversely, in Latin America or in the Middle East, you would still be on time even if you are late by 15-30min. People did not understand in Malaysia that they were insulting me by being an hour late (or more), meaning that they do not think that my own time is as valuable as theirs. It seems basic, but first impression are usually the best and the ones that people will keep in mind for a long time. Don’t be late at an appointment whether it’s a client, a supplier or a colleague. Obviously things happen, but there should be a good communication and it should be an exception. If, for instance, traffic is usually bad where you leave then anticipate and leave early. You can always bring your laptop and work if you arrive early, you won’t waste any time. However if you arrive late, you might have already missed a contract, a job or a promotion.
The next thing to be considered is preparation. If you are on time but you have not spent any time researching the potential client, the company you are interviewing for, or the supplier that you might take on for your next project, you will be more stressed, less confident, waste time (your own and your interlocutor’s) and damage your reputation in the process. It will be close to impossible to recover from what will be considered as a lack of interest and carelessness.
Finally, organization is key to make an appointment efficient, set up the appointment at least a few days in advance, offer different possible slots to accommodate your interlocutor to avoid wasteful back and forth emails. At the same time, you can offer an agenda in order to keep the meeting focused and efficient. Finally after the meeting, it’s always good to send a summary of the conversation in order to avoid any misunderstanding and give you a way to refresh your memory about this meeting in the future. It also does not hurt to thank your interlocutor for its time.
If there is one thing that definitely annoys me to the fullest it’s announcing a deadline for sending work, material, or files and not only missing the deadline but also postponing these deliverable by a huge margin. This will definitely destroy your reputation and make people doubting your word in the future which will cost you dearly. Trust is paramount in business and if you promise to do the task in a week and end up doing it in three weeks, you can imagine how your client, boss or business partner will react. That also goes for client not providing information, or material needed for the contractor to complete its work (and typically the client will blame the contractor for the delay!) Furthermore, what you are not seeing is usually the cascading effect that will cause your delay. What if your task was part of a much bigger one, and your delay affects the entire project or ends up with the loss of a huge contract? That’s why you should always consider the worst case scenario when giving an estimate in order to keep your word. The client will be able to organize its work around it and better estimate the completion of the overall project. Communicating around the timetable is not always an easy task and you will have to educate your client, boss or business partner by explaining all the sub-tasks involved and potential delay outside of your control (bureaucracy for creating a new business entity, getting permits or Chinese New Year if you manufacture in China for instance).
Paying on time when the work has been completed according to the terms negotiated is another important matter. If you try to delay payment or worse skip it all together, you can do it once, but you won’t be able to do it twice. With online reviews being so widespread and word to mouth, this strategy is really unwise and will damage your reputation in the medium to long term by isolating you from your employees, contractors, suppliers and clients (not to mention investors) who will avoid you like the plague. You should always run your business cautiously and plan for the worst to avoid any risky commitment/investment which could leave you naked at the first crisis or missed contract.
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