Rookie Mistakes

rookie mistakes

My wife and I had spent a beautiful late-summer weekend removing planks from our deck and paneling from our family room to prepare for a contractor expected to start work bright and early Monday morning.

This project was initially scheduled for October, but a phone call from the contractor on Friday asking if they could start on Monday prompted me to say yes. Preparing for their arrival would disrupt our weekend plans, but we were happy to oblige them in anticipation of assuring the project would be done before the snow flies.

The contractor didn’t arrive bright and early or even bright and late, nor did we receive a phone call explaining the delay. Eventually, I called the company to see how soon I could expect someone. “Sorry” was the response. The employee who was supposed to perform the work had an emergency and had called off, so he wouldn’t be coming.

Summoning all the emotional intelligence I had left, I asked why I had not been contacted. He replied that the last customer they called to let know they would arrive late had yelled at them. Seriously?! This isn’t a start-up company that doesn’t understand the fundamentals of good customer service. This is a highly reviewed, 38-year-old company making a rookie mistake.

I confess there are many personal flaws I continue to work on, with impatience being among them—especially as it relates to business. And certain business behaviors trigger my impatience like no other. Chief among them are impunctuality, lack of communication, and indifference. Unfortunately, this guy hit the trifecta.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of showing up. It’s every business’s most important key performance indicator. You don’t even need to be good when you show up, but you do need to show up. And you earn extra credit if you show up on time!

Then there’s communication. In this case, it was the lack of communication despite the abundance of tools currently available to communicate.

But it was the indifference that struck me. There is no place for indifference in business, especially if you’re serious about success. Yet, when things are going well, it’s common for companies to become indifferent to the needs of their customers, thinking if this one isn’t happy, we’ve got plenty more.

No business is immune from the risk of this thinking when the business pendulum is swinging in the abundance direction. But this is also when business problems plant their seeds and may not reveal themselves until the pendulum swings in the other direction and customers aren’t as plentiful or forgiving. By then, the damage has been done; we’ve lost our competitive edge, and it’s often too late and too costly to fix.

The pendulum of business never stops swinging, and while it might be turning in the desired direction of solid sales and profitability at the moment, it will inevitably swing back in the direction of tight markets and even tighter cash.

Companies that relentlessly operate in flush times as if the pendulum has swung into the tight area will avoid many of the struggles and heartburn experienced by companies that don’t.

Chuck Violand

Chuck Violand is the founder of Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Through VMA, he works with business owners and companies to develop their people and profits. For more information, visit www.violand.com.

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