I recently had an exchange with a group seeking to make an investment in us. Although it was unclear whether or not we would be a good fit, the referral came from a friend I trust (who is also a mutual friend of the CEO that approached us), so I agreed to have an initial telephone conversation. Things quickly went downhill from there.
Almost immediately I get an email from the group’s assistant, inquiring about times and dates. I respond promptly with three openings -- all in the following week. (This was on a Tuesday.) Then the sound of crickets chirping.
On the following Monday, I get another email from the assistant informing me that none of my three suggested times would work for them and suggesting a number of specific time periods for the week after. I was available to do two of them and promptly replied. Then crickets chirping again -- all the way until the following Monday. That was followed by an email saying that it turned out that everyone was “too busy” and that neither of the two times they initially suggested, which I accepted, would work. They again requested that I offer still more dates for the following week.
Then crickets -- this time from me! These interactions told me everything I needed to know and I simply moved on.
Obviously, this was not the fault of the assistant, but one of the organization for which she worked. Unfortunately, this type of thing happens all too often -- and it demonstrates how some organizations persist with the highly unproductive practice of general disorganization. So what are the lessons?
- Don’t seek a meeting if or when you are “too busy” to take it.
- If you have an emergency -- or otherwise make a mistake -- just say as much and indicate (either directly or through clear direction to your assistant) that you will reach back out at a better time. An apology for the error is also a nice touch.
- When attempting to schedule something, offer two or three time/dates. It should go without saying that being available for them is a must. If not, don’t offer them.
- If your end requires the availability of two or more members of your team, get that sorted before attempting any communication with the other party. If you can’t get it your end sorted, wait until you do before making any contact.
- Make the plan promptly -- or decide not to make a plan -- within a day at the most. No one has the time or the flexibility of schedule to hold time/dates until just before the proposed event.
Things sometimes get busy -- that’s how it works -- and emergencies do happen. But neither are an acceptable excuse for being disorganized. It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised just how often one or more poor scheduling practices happen, sometimes regularly. You’ve probably experienced some of this yourself.
In the end, it’s all about leadership. If the leader is disorganized or otherwise unfocused, not much good will happen. If you’re an entrepreneur, think about the list above. If even one of these things is happening at your company, you have problem that you (with the emphasis on “you”) need to address, whether personally or within your company.
This stuff is simple. Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be.