Does time matter?
I see way too many businesses in which time seems not to matter. There’s little or no sense of urgency, no clear performance deadlines and, as a result, no specific commitments.
Meetings don’t start on time; deadlines are seldom met and calls and e-mails are not returned promptly. Time is wasted, customers feel dishonoured, business is lost and your best people get frustrated. Many of them will leave and the mediocre ones who stay will take ‘I don’t give a damn’ pills and keep showing up.
Three weeks ago (that is, when I first wrote this column), I left a phone message for the small business account manager at the bank where we’ve done business for the past 40 years. I’ve not heard back from him. Where are the clear service standards, the commitment to urgency and the systems and processes to make it happen? And where are the ‘career consequences’ for those who choose not to perform? Failure to measure performance and failure to deal with non-performance are two of the biggest problems in many businesses today.
A few years ago, I did some business coaching for two brothers who owned a large marina specializing in selling and servicing motor yachts from 50 feet to 90 feet in length. They also had over 200 rental boat slips and a ‘gas dock’. It costs $3,000 to $8,000 to fuel up those cruisers, so the gas dock is a big revenue generator. But, as there are several other large marinas in the area, they had lots of competition for fuel sales.
One of the brothers bragged to me that a few years ago they installed a soft ice cream machine on the gas dock and offered free ice cream cones to fuel customers. It was a huge hit! But the other brother confided to me the ice cream machine had been broken for the past two summers. I asked how much had their fuel sales declined over those two seasons. The answer was 28%.
You can’t believe this stuff! Two summers of drastically falling sales and nobody made the phone call to the ice cream machine company for a service call. No one had the sense of urgency to make the damn call! Not the two partners, not their two entitled, idiot sons in the business and none of their 47 employees who didn’t think it was their job.
Looking at it from a different perspective, someone else was also asleep at the switch. Their supplier of the liquid ice cream mix for the machine should have immediately noticed the marina stopped ordering product and looked into it. If they had, they could have made the service call themselves and paid to have the machine fixed so they could keep selling a ton of product.
So here are a few tips:
- Start meetings on time. Have a set agenda and a pre-announced ‘end time’. And end at that time. This is so simple to do and it sends a clear message that time is valuable and it matters.
- Create clear expectations and performance standards regarding how long it will take to answer the phone, return calls, answer e-mails, deal with complaints, acknowledge a customer when they enter your retail business, follow-up on previously booked appointments (dentists do this really well – doctors never) etc.
- Make sure you have the systems and processes in place that help make things happen on time.
- Give and ask for clear and specific completion commitments for all tasks and projects. Those commitments can be ‘renegotiated’ when necessary but there’s always a commitment date. Businesses don’t die from a single shot to the head. They die slowly but surely from a thousand uncompleted tasks. The ten magic words that create clarity, urgency, commitment and accountability in any business are “By when can we agree that this will be completed?” Document the commitment and follow-up. The world is run by those who follow-up.
So, be honest, do you have the sense of urgency and respect for time that’s needed in every part of your business – or have things gotten a bit ‘slacksidasical’? (I made that one up.) If so, what are you going to do about it and by when will you do it? Making time matter in your business or department starts with you.
That’s it for this week. Stay safe. Live brilliantly!