WHAT A GREAT SERIES OF LESSONS. HERE IT IS
I don't mind admitting that I experienced one of those "wake-up call" moments a few days ago.
Back in August I spent a delightful day with a potential new client, meeting his team, touring his beautiful practice, lunching with his wife and even meeting his family at home - a complete day of immersion in his business and his life.
Subsequent to that meeting he agreed to utilise what is now branded as our Breathe Bespoke service - personal in-house coaching from Chris in 2008 - and an investment on his part of over £12,000 in the service and in the future of his own business.
My support team contacted him and all the dates were scheduled in next year's diary.
Imagine, therefore, my surprise when I read a short email from him a couple of weeks ago, simply requesting that the service be cancelled and the dates removed.
That just doesn't happen to me - so I was intrigued to know what had "gone wrong".
I replied to the email personally, confirming the cancellation and asked is it would be possible to arrange a short phone call to explore the reasons behind his decision, simply to improve my systems and standards going forward.
This is a really nice guy - evidenced by his immediate response, agreeing to speak with me.
My day of workshop presentation followed, with my mind constantly drifting back to the call arranged later that day and me fantasising about all the possible explanations for his change of heart.
As I drove between "gigs" that evening, the call took place - and here is what he said:
"Chris - we had a fantastic day with you in August - a really good diagnosis and treatment plan for our business going forward and plenty of breakthrough strategies BUT:
1. You promised to send me some follow up work after the meeting - I knew that you were about to take a vacation but nothing ever came;
2. We booked the 2008 dates at the end of September but then there was absolute silence from you and your team;
3. All I read about in your ezine and in your blog posts is how BUSY you are - endless tours of the UK, innumerable hotels, early morning starts, the launch of Breathe Business, conferences, workshops, visits, hardly ever home, bemoaning the lack of balance;
4. The final straw was at the Showcase, when my wife and I saw you hurtling towards us down the corridor, BUSY and on your way between meetings. You stopped to say "hello" to us, quickly told us how you were looking forward to working together and how BUSY you were - and then rushed off again, looking like some American Presidential Candidate;
5. We turned to each other after that and discussed the merits of hiring the BUSIEST coach in Britain to help us.
All in all Chris, we have decided to wait a year - until you are less BUSY, before we consider proceeding with our relationship."
In the call - I accepted and thanked him for his feedback - and hoped that in 2009 we could begin again. I wished him every success and asked him to reassure me that if we met at a dental "gig" again in 2008, he would walk across the room to say "hello" not avoid me - agreed.
We part on good terms - that's important to me.
A few days later I had occasion to check his first point - and he was correct - back in August I went on vacation - and promptly forgot to deliver on the promised follow through - guilty as charged.
I'm also going to plead guilty to all other charges - as I look back over the written material I have produced in recent months, much of it has been about "harvest time" (as Stephen Covey would call it) - working 6 days a week to launch Breathe Business, continue my obligations in The Dental Business School and meet our 2008 sales targets. Busy, busy, busy.
So the whole episode has been a potentially expensive learning curve.
Lesson 1 - make sure you deliver on your "follow up" promises. I'm going to claim that my follow through is normally meticulous - and this one just slipped through the net. The buggeration factor in business is that you always make that type of mistake with the clients or prospects who are most likely to be sensitive to it - isn't that such a bitch?
Lesson 2 - be careful and mindful that what you mean when you say something might not be what the reader hears.
Lessons 3 - if you lose business - find out why.
Yes - this has been the busiest of times - I'm looking forward to 17th December when this harvest time ends.
I remain convinced that I have fulfilled my obligations to clients during this time, judging by the steady stream of appreciation that makes my work a delight to deliver.
2008 for me is principally about "back to balance", with plenty of Sullivan's Free, Focus and Buffer Days already scheduled in my diary.
But my "busy-ness" has certainly caused one potential client to think again - so I'm going to re-phrase my language around that in the future.