When Time Is NOT on Your Side
You know it’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of when, and how often. You met the client, earned her trust, and actually sold a project. You agreed on terms, pricing and delivery. This is your first shot. Maybe your only shot. And the morning the job is due to the client, you get in, and your production manager tells you the job is going to be late. It’s due at noon. “How late?” you say optimistically. “Two hours. We’ll definitely get it to her by two.”
And you know what happens next. You call her, and tell her it’ll be there by two. She tells you that that is fine, but there is really no wiggle room, because the CEO is leaving for the airport at three and they need to go over the content one more time. “No problem,” you say. “It will be there. I’ll bring it myself.” At 1:30 you go to the floor to get the work, which theoretically should be in packaging by now, only to be told that it will be a while longer.
A WHILE? And here is where it all falls apart. Ambiguity. Miscommunication. Optimism. Wishful thinking. Call it whatever the hell you want to call it, but you’ve got a problem. And the problem is a hard one to deal with and a hard one to fix.
No one wants to give bad news, miss a deadline or let down a client. And production does not want to fight with you over this issue. But it happens. Probably more often than we’d like to admit. So where do we start to make it all better?
It starts with a heart-to-heart between all departments. Customer service, estimating, sales and production all have to be in agreement about deadlines and communication. And that is no small task.
But you need to make it happen. Especially with a new customer. So over-communicate if you have to. Be a nag if you must. But make sure everyone, including you, understands what the deadline is and what is at stake.
And when it comes to estimating time, demand accuracy. Make sure that the production manager is not just telling you what he thinks you need and want to hear. Make sure he is accountable for what he tells you, and that he understands the domino effect of his sometimes misguided optimism. You can and will lose the account. And you worked really hard to land it.
This can be a systemic issue that needs the attention of your most senior person (like the CEO, president, or owner—whoever is your head honcho). If you have never experienced this problem, you are blessed. But if it happens to you a lot, please, get some help. Take some action. Get time on YOUR side for a change!