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Not donuts…although I did drool a little, OK a lot, while typing the word. Eleven of twelve things to which I refer are yet to be determined, let alone glazed, powered, or filled with jelly. Mmm, donuts.
Anyway, I am inviting everyone, at least the willing, to join in a self-regulated self-improvement challenge to enhance our businesses and, by association, make this industry slightly better through incremental but concerted efforts in the coming year.
Every month, 12 times this year, I vow to address and, hopefully, correct one flaw in my infinite inventory of flaws. I intend to share some funny examples from my own history that demonstrate the issue at hand, and the consequences and offer some possible options for corrective measures that, hopefully, relegate them to lessons learned.
By the time you are reading this, 2010 will have already begun but it is not too late to start down the path toward making things substantially better. Given my above-average quotient of imperfections and the stone-headed nature in which I have managed/ignored them in the past, I expect a greater chance of success and better results if the challenges to be addressed are obvious and identifiable and will benefit from simple correct measures. That is my charge.
As communications technology advances and the pace of daily living becomes exponentially faster, many otherwise pleasant people have developed a gnat’s patience for response tolerance. Due to the speed of email and the omnipresent access to Crackberries, I-Phones, HemiDroids, etc., any delay in responding to inquiries, regardless of intent or desire, can be taken as non-interest or rejection. Neither is likely to be seen in a positive light.
Now, let’s move on to the first of my 12 flaws to be addressed.
A very nice lady, referred by an established client and a very nice family, contacted me and asked for a contract. Through no sales effort on my part, She knew what I would provide, wanted it for her event, and never even asked about the price. Sounds dreamy, huh? It happens.
Her date was available and the chosen venue was familiar to me. I informed her that I would send a contract and ink her event on my calendar. All seemed to be progressing perfectly. Shortly after receiving the initial payment, the party supplier, whom I always recommend, emailed confirmation of her “goody” order and it was exactly what I had suggested. Some clients are just so smart.
The initial planning session was enjoyable and very productive and I was truly looking forward to working with this family and their guests.
As the date drew near, she emailed, and I received on my Blackberry, an update indicating that the number of guests had changed and would now include about 50 additional partiers, approximately 30 adults and 20 kids. My sound system and performance abilities are capable of handling that minor addition and the already suggested and purchased party supplies were ample enough for such a modification so I foolishly and lazily discounted the need for a quick response. One week or so later, I replied with a simple acknowledgment of receipt and indicated prep was running smooth. Later I learned/realized that she had a coworker send that message so it was off her email radar and the coworker didn’t forward my reply. Regardless, it is not her responsibility to follow up on my follow-upping.
Our initial meeting/planning session was such a success and their schedules had become so busy that they decided to forgo any additional meetings and she informed me of that in another email, which I, again, received on my mobile device generating, on my part , a dangerous and non-imperative responsive attitude. No meeting meant, again, no additional effort on my part so I merrily went on working and preparing the established plan. Weeks later, I emailed the proposed itinerary and acknowledged their desire to forgo additional planning meetings.
The next call regarding this event came from the referring client.
Yeah, she was calling to ask if I had decided to back out of her friend’s event.
I was taken aback because that event was on the front boiler, the prep was all but finished, and the process seemed, from my perspective, to be moving along perfectly. The key phrase there is “from my perspective.”
Unfortunately, my delayed responses to the last two emails created concern and unnecessary stress for my client and made her feel so ignored that she enlisted the help of her friend and mine to get a “better” response. I was certainly embarrassed and disappointed in myself.
I immediately called her to apologize and assuage her concerns. I assured her that I was still very much looking forward to the celebration and that our plans were on a course toward total success. I acknowledged receiving the prior messages and again “ate crow” while promising to more professionally respond to all future messages. Given the stage of development, however, none were necessary.
The evening arrived and Karma decided to really teach me a lesson. Had I been better at responding, I might provide her an opportunity to directly inform me or, through discussions, may have recognized that the change in guest count, while having no effect on my prep and eventual performance, would certainly have an effect on the actual event room.
This client had contracted a small downstairs ballroom that was originally chosen and sufficient for the initial guest list. The known additional and potential additional guests prompted this astute client to request a room change to the venue’s larger, second-level room.
Have I mentioned that this classic French Quarter building has no elevators?
What about the fact that the guest stairwell is off-limits to vendors and the loading area for the upstairs room was designed and built, apparently by the Marque De Sade, when deliveries were made by horse and carriage and not towed behind SUV utility trailers?
Oddly enough, I knew then and still am aware of this venue’s circumstances and policies and whenever I submit a proposal for an event in that particular room, the fee accounts for the additional strike requirements. In this case, my unresponsiveness allowed a change to occur that had a direct effect on a major component of my service, that being, GETTING MY GEAR IN THE ROOM!
As you can surmise, I was at the mercy of my own folly. The expected simple and easy strike had now reached Defcon 2 and I was ill-prepared to efficacy manage the strike activity. Nothing to do but git’erdun!
The necessary strike activity was unexpectedly tedious, unnecessarily difficult, totally undermanned, rushed, mega-aggravating, and just plain worse than it would have been having I simply have been more responsive. Shame on me.
Thankfully, of all my shortcomings, cutting too close on the clock is not one, at least it has not been for some time. It used to be but I tired of the stress and aggravation and corrected my tendency to delay. Since squashing that tendency, I always arrive with ample time to make such adjustments. So that proves two things; You can teach an old dog a new trick and this old dog is always learningin’.
With just enough time to set up and get into performance mode and garb, we began the program and all went well. I do not believe the client ever knew of my self inflicted punishment but I did. And I’d bet a dollar to a donut (Mmm, donuts) that the snafu affected my early attitude and my pre-event grumbling did not go unheard by the venue staff. Deduct valuable venue referral points for whining. I am also unable to guarantee that my performance was unaffected. Working under that type of unnecessary stress has real potential to involuntarily and unfavorably taint one’s performance. All that negative garbage could and would have been avoided had I been better at responding without delay.
Therefore, as of, no later than January 1, 2010, and sooner if possible, I vow to effort quicker, better, and more reliable email communications with clients. I will, when at all possible, quickly reply with a notice of receipt and include language that addresses the request or, at the very least, ignites the dialogue. I will still ignore the endless emails from my Liberian beneficiary that has yet to deposit the promised fortune in my bank account. Maybe he sent it to Cap Capello’s account since that’s whose Social Security number I gave him.
Please join in me this monthly exercise and address at least 12 things you could do better. If only 12 of us participate, by 2011, we could get rid of at least one gross…pun intended.
Here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy, Prosperous 2010.
Rocky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org