Don’t Under Promise and; Over Deliver!


Just do what you promise! People don’t want or expect you to do more or finish early. They just want what you told them you’ll do. When you promise you’ll finish on July 1st, you better finish on July 1st. And the word finish means finished! Finished doesn’t mean you still have to come back to do final touches or little things to complete your work.

You create drop-dead deadlines by making promises and agreeing to do something. If you can’t make it happen, don’t agree to the deadline. Never tell people what they want to hear just to make them happy. Because when you don’t make the date, you are now in the doghouse forever and won’t be trusted again. When asked for a firm commitment date, don’t quickly say:

“We’ll have it done by …”
“I’ll send it to you by …”
“We can get started on …”
“I’ll think we’ll get the materials by …”
“After the … finishes, then we can start.”
“We can get the first part finished by …”
“I’ll try to have a crew there on …”

Before you set deadlines, make sure you know the actual date or drop-dead date required by your customer to make them satisfied (not happy). If they don’t trust you, based on your prior unkept promises, they’ll ask for an earlier date than they really need to allow for days they anticipate you’ll be late. Ask before you commit: “What’s the latest date you really need this done to make your schedule?” After you hear their answer, give them a realistic date you can commit to and make without excuses.

Customers lose respect for your integrity when they don’t trust you, are uncertain about your performance, don’t know what’s happening, the dates slip without an honest or pro-active explanation, or are not informed about changing conditions. Honesty is the only policy in every instance. The truth will always surface eventually. Customers respect and trust honesty about the news,. whether it’s good or bad. Besides, if you can’t be trusted with little truths, how can you ever be trusted with bigger things?

Years ago we were working for a construction manager who asked us to pad our construction budget and pay a few of his expenses from the extra money. I felt this was dishonest and not in the project developer’s best interest. I was put into the middle of a tough situation. The construction manager was the person who approved our invoices, change order requests, and workmanship. But the developer was our ultimate customer. I decided to do what’s right and tell the developer about the uncomfortable situation. He listened, thanked me for the information, and then asked us to meet with him and the construction manager to discuss the facts. In the meeting, the construction manager denied the claims and proceeded to yell and scream obscenities at us. Guess what? The developer fired him and we finished the project. Ten years later we still build for this developer and the construction manager is out of business selling used cars.

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