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One Simple Saying That Will Stop a Big Business Headache

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One Simple Saying That Will Stop a Big Business Headache

There’s a saying I heard a couple of years ago that made me stop in my tracks with shock and delight.  Fireworks went off in my brain, synapses sizzled and sparked, and a tiny marching band happily clanged its way out of my ears (falling off my shoulder to its untimely but melodic death).

When I first started in business, this saying would have been an excellent warning and an absolute saviour.

The saying is: Your failure to plan does not make it my emergency.

What does the saying mean?

It’s relevant to all areas of life, but in small business, it means that if a client leaves a task or project to the last minute due to their own lack of planning, you, as the supplier, don’t have to feel obliged to take on the stress of fixing the problem. You can turn down the project or task, or negotiate different terms.

This saying could have helped me

Many years ago when my business first started (I couldn’t be picky and choosy about the work I took on!), I received a call from a man who urgently needed copy (words) for brochures he wanted printed the following week. The brochures were for a presentation he was giving.

He assured me he only needed basic copy, and asked if I could write and send it that same afternoon. I told him the earliest I could send the copy would be the following day, which happened to be a Saturday.

He kept reassuring me about the simplicity of what he needed.  He sounded a bit flustered and I found myself getting stressed on his behalf, after all, he needed the brochures for the presentation he was giving, without them he’d miss a great advertising opportunity!  I had to help him, dammit!

Geez, I wish I’d known the saying back then.

So, I wrote the copy. I knew it wouldn’t the best copy due to: the tight timeframe, lack of background information, and not being able to follow my normal processes. But, the copy was exactly what he requested, and it was enough to get him through the small print run in time for the presentation.

Once I sent the copy to him, not surprisingly, he didn’t like it. And despite being in such a hurry on the phone the previous day (practically rapping out his requirements faster than Eminem), all of a sudden he had time to write a long email ballad about areas for improvement.

Errr, I was slightly annoyed. But I wasn’t annoyed with him, I was annoyed with myself. It was totally my fault.  He made the request but I could have turned it down, negotiated other terms or done a better job of managing his expectations.  After all, his lack of planning, didn’t make it my emergency.

The good news is that I learnt swiftly and comprehensively from that mistake.

I took on a few more rush jobs in those early years, but I put several safety measures in place to ensure there were no problems. I’ll outline these measures in a future article.

Always remember the saying!

Whenever you’re on the cusp of starting a stressful, rushed project, ask yourself, ‘Does the client’s failure to plan make it my emergency?’  The answer will probably be a resounding ‘NO!’

Just ask the marching band.

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