The River Jordan
“Remember your projects are due next class. If you need an extension, please bring a note from your parents,” Mrs. Pierce announced.
Although I was a smart student, I always wrote essays during lunch for her 10th Grade English class. Mrs. Pierce never seemed to notice. She gave perfect scores to all my last-minute writing.
Procrastination is a Bad Business Habit
Many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with are amongst the worst procrastinators I have ever met. Not long ago, we had a short experiment with Entrepreneurial Interns at YaghiLabs. My management staff had a nightmare keeping them on task.
When given assignments to do, it took two people to follow-up with them before assignments were submitted.
Similarly, hired freelancers were no better.
Service contractors forget they are businesses. A business has an obligation to deliver on time PERFECT work. Nothing is worse than gaining a reputation for being slow.
It cause clients substantial loss.
Mrs. Pierce didn’t like me very much.
My English teacher thought I was disruptive. She gave me the lowest grades on conduct and effort.
However, unlike most bad students, I was a gifted child. Teachers had no choice but to acknowledge that, even if they disliked me.
My high school streamed students into four:
A-Stream, B-Stream, C-Stream, and Special Needs.
I was not a special needs student, in fact I was in the highest stream competing with the most gifted children….in most of my classes.
However, English, Art, and Physical Education, were mixed – our classmates were from the B, C, and Special Needs streams.
Teachers had no choice but to teach the curriculum slowly to accommodate the less capable. This was boring and meant I was often idle.
So with the competition this easy, I could afford to slack off in Mrs. Pierce’s class and still outshine the rest.
I’m sure it infuriated her because even even when I seemed distracted, she never could catch me with those questions teachers ask students who aren’t paying attention.
When Mrs. Pierce announced that our projects on, “River Jordan” was due, I realised I had not even finished reading the novel, let alone started the project!
“Mrs. Pierce,” I called while raising my hand. “What would you like the note from our parents to say…if we need an extension, I mean.”
She frowned in my general direction. “Well, you need to have a good excuse and the note should say why you’ll be late.”
“What kind of excuse is a good one?” I persisted.
She gave me one of her piercing looks and ignored me. I hated her a little more.
Hired Help Online Requires Smart Management
At least in school, we had to get a note to be excused from handing in assignments on time.
Contractors, it seems, always become absent from email, phone, and chat when they are behind. It’s a nightmare of stress when this happens. Often, they quit without warning, rather than admit they made a mistake.
I wish contractors would just inform me when they expect delay. At least I would have a chance to do damage control with my clients and customers.
Should we tell our client, “Sorry the video you paid for is going to be late because one of our staff is MIA.”
That is embarrassing and unprofessional! It is not fair on our client to lose money because of our incompetent staff.
My Mother Gives Me an Excuse
That evening, when I got home, I approached my mother innocently, “Mum. I need a note for an extension. I haven’t finished my Enligh assignment yet and it’s due tomorrow. Can you say I was sick last week?”
My parents did anything to help me get ahead in school. They gave excuse notes to get out of detention, to avoid swimming, and anything else I needed. Of course they didn’t encourage this behaviour, but I knew they didn’t want me to get poor grades. And I took advantage of them.
Mother always signed notes with just “B.Y.”, her initials.
She told me that if I really needed a note (eg, I forgot my gym shorts which would have earned me detention), I could write an excuse note and sign on her behalf. I never did it, but it gave me confidence to ask.
Excuses are For Losers
Many Contractors are only in business because they were poor employees, and useless school students before that. They became MASTERS of excuse-making.
From humble, “Dog ate my homework” beginnings, to “my parents got divorced,” to “I’m going through a divorce” as adults. Their excuses are endless – but they’re also difficult to challenge.
I’m usually a nice guy. I don’t have the heart to openly challenge someone who claims their work is late because their finance was in a wreck. But it seems such excuse-makers attract disaster.
The professional contractor works through their pains and problems and doesn’t make them someone else’s problem.
Management is something I had to learn in the School of Hard Knocks. The rule, regardless of how good the excuse, is always the same:
If a hired hand makes an excuse in their first assignment, I equate it with incompetence.
I Strike, Rudely
Sure enough, the next day, when my classmates were handing in their assignments, I walked over to Mrs. Pierce’s desk and produced the note from my mother.
My lips were twisted into a smirk, intended to betray me. Mrs. Pierce caught my eye, and I stared back at her just long enough so she would notice my expression.
I headed back to my chair without a word and sat.
“Jim!” She called from the front of the room.
“Yes, maam?” I responded feigning innocence.
“A word please,” she said dryly.
I walked back to her desk and held her gaze.
“This,” she indicated to the open note in front of her, “is not the handwriting of an adult.”
I gasped, insincerely. She indicated at the blue-inked initials at the bottom of the note. She continued, “And this is not your mother’s signature.”
Leaning into her face while resting my arms on the other side of her desk, I looked into her brown eyes and countered, “What are you saying? That I forged this note?”
Her trembling lips betrayed her impatience.
But naughty child I was, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to push her – just a little over the edge.
Without so much as a pause, I continued cooly, “No offence, Ma’am. But what level of education do you need to be a school teacher? My mother is a highly educated woman. She has a PhD and teaches at the University. Whether you believe it or not, this IS her handwriting – and I think it’s a great effort for someone who speaks English as a second language. How many languages do you know?”
I tapped at the note indicating the signature. “This is how my mother signs her notes. Anyway. If you don’t believe me, I’ll give you our home phone number and you can call her yourself.”
Look, I was a child. I’m not proud of this, I only tell the story because it was a little funny. However, it took many years of personal development to rid myself of this bad habit. It was affecting my business.
Nobody wants to work with an unreliable partner. No client wants to hire a slow contractor. Opportunities come and go very quickly, and if a business is inefficient and gives poor quality last-minute work, they hurt the clients they serve.
Excuses have no place in business. They’re made by employees to employers.
A good manager asks their employees to sign an agreement that says if they expect delays, they must inform them in writing immediately.
Why do I do this?
Because it keeps my employees accountable; particularly online where reliability is scarce. If there ever is a reason for delay, I need to at least know in advance so I can make backup arrangements.
In fact, I expect delays, no matter how highly paid the contractor. I always assign tasks to TWO contractors at a time.
Does this cost more money?
Yes, in the short-term. But I lost clients who spent tens of thousands of dollars with our business because of one contractor’s screw up. Having two contractors working on one task reduces the odds of both failing.
However, we should not have to do this! We need to deal with professionals.
Mrs. Pierce was FURIOUS.
She had to take a breath to keep her temper.
“Fine. Give it to me,” she said tightly.
In a tone of obvious disdain, I slowly dictated the numbers.
Mrs. Pierce wrote the number on the back of the note and sent me back to my desk.
Thinking back, I have to give it to her; Mrs. Pierce was an extraordinarily patient teacher! Had one of my online business students spoken to me the way I did to Mrs. Pierce, I would have returned their money and shut them out of my classes.
The Phone Rings
All weekend, I worked on the River Jordan assignment and completed it. On Monday, the assignment was submitted. But to my disappointment, Mrs. Pierce did not call for several days.
It was 6 O’Clock. We had just finished dinner.
The phone rang.
I picked up. “Hello?” I said.
“Yes. Hi this is Mrs. Pierce from Mt. Roskill Grammar. Is Mrs. Yaghi there?”
I smiled. I’m sure she could hear it.
“Oh! You mean, Dr. Yaghi? Yeah, she’s here, I’ll get her.”
“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam!” I called. “It’s for you. My English teacher.”
The conversation lasted for a brief moment. I sat beside my mother. She confirmed she’d written the note while I giggled in the background.
Competition in Business
I received an A on that assignment. Was it because it was an A-effort from me?
But grades are assigned competitively. If one’s classmates are weak, their teacher has no choice but to award the top student with an A.
An A, however, does not say that it was A quality work. In another class, this last-minute work would have received no more than a C.
I got away with it because the class only had a handful of A-Streamers. The rest, our competition, were B and C stream students and Special Needs children. It’s easy to stand out in that crowd.
But in Business?
That won’t fly for you or me. If the market is saturated (and online, it often is), you’ll make little to no money.
On the other hand, if you raise the bar and stand PROUD with work that amazes even you, then yours will be the most demanded business of all.
Look at any successful organisation like Google or Apple – do you think they look at the little start-up technology companies and say well at least we’re better than them…or do they shine because they compete with their own best efforts?
The choice is yours, Contractor.
You can leave your work to the last minute and stay tiny, insignificant.
Or you could outdo yourself, over-deliver and look for ways to give you customers the best experience ever.
Just know this: Excuses are for naughty children.
By the way, I’ve spent 3 years and several 100,000 dollars experimenting with contractors. In Module 8 of the YaghiLabs Internet Business Academy, I outline a system we’ve been perfecting to get high quality work from even the worst employees.
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