Let’s Respect Our Time

It is no secret that the word commitment means different things to different people. This is especially true when it comes to keeping meetings.

Meetings always get postponed and canceled, for various reasons. However, I have noticed that the percentage of my meetings that have been postponed or canceled has gone up over the past six months. This is not a good trend.

Technology undoubtedly plays a part in this since e-mail and mobile devices (BlackBerrys, etc.) have made business more hectic and lead people to try to cram ever more appointments into a business day. But that is really no excuse. Personally, it is very important to me to keep my meetings and be on time — but to be honest, I must admit that I, too, have been canceling more lately.

Why is this a problem? Because canceled meetings often have huge opportunity costs. The day I wrote this, someone canceled a lunch meeting with only one hour’s notice. The lunch was not with a customer, but with someone with whom we have worked in another capacity.

What made this especially annoying was that on this same day, a prospective advertiser had asked to meet with me, and I told him that my schedule didn’t allow that. Instead I crammed in a phone call, which is always less desirable than meeting face-to-face with a potential client. (In this case, maybe I made the mistake of not canceling the “non-revenue-generating” lunch in order to try to get more business).

As small business owners, time is our most precious commodity. So in the interest of respecting each other’s time, below are a few things that we can do to help each other. To do my part, I pledge to live by these rules, too.

  • If you do need to cancel or postpone, do it as soon as possible.
  • Don’t rely on e-mail to cancel. A cancellation is an important message, and you can’t afford to let it get caught in a spam filter.
  • If you think there is a good chance you will need to cancel when you make the appointment, let the other party know from the outset.
  • At the same time, don’t force a meeting with someone. Those are the ones that are even more likely to get canceled. I like to ask someone if it makes sense to meet before committing to using up my valuable time — or theirs.

It is sometimes easy to forget that we are a business community, and any community functions best in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We may not always do business with each other, but we should show each other a little more respect and keep the commitments we make.