Being on Time

One of my pet peeves is people who aren’t on time for things. Just how much this upsets me was brought home to me twice today, and I decided it was time to rant about it.

The first was a meeting I was supposed to have with the director of a local non-profit organization. The plan was that he would give me a call before noon, to arrange a meeting shortly after noon. I was offering to put some scripts together on their website so they could post news more easily so people would know what’s up with this organization. Off the top of my head, I’d guess it was an offer of about a thousand dollar donation of services.

He finally called at 12:30, calling my cell-phone (after I’d given him my home number, saying that was the best way to reach me), leaving a message saying we’d have to reschedule. I left for lunch and a walk to clear my head at 12:45, and finally got the message at 2:45 when I got home and wondered if maybe he’d called the cell-phone. At this point, I don’t know if I’m even going to bother trying again. Apparently my offer of services isn’t worth enough for him to call me when he said he was going to, which makes me wonder why I should bother helping out.

The second was the president of a company for which we did some web design work. He was impressed with our work, and asked if we might want to put in a bid for some future work. The problem is that the person we had to work with at that company, “marketing guy”, had blown off every single in-person meeting we’d scheduled during the previous project, and had been late for numerous phone calls we’d also scheduled (about a quarter of the final cost to the client was time we spent waiting for marketing guy, rather than doing productive work). I replied that we’d be interested in looking at the work, as long as marketing guy wasn’t involved. And I’ll stick by that. I don’t think there’s enough money to convince me to work with marketing guy again.

The third event (a couple days ago) is a company I’m contracting at. At this company, there’s a regularly scheduled weekly meeting. It happens every week unless people decide there isn’t enough to talk about and we cancel the meeting. One of the team members has not been on time for the meeting that I can remember. It bugs me enough that even though this is the client providing most of my income at the moment, I think about simply walking away from the contract almost every day.

So why do I feel this strongly about being on time?

Well, most of it has to do with the saying A Man’s Word is His Bond. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, then you do it. If you don’t, you’d better give notice ahead of time, and have a pretty good reason.

But another part of it is respect. When schedule a meeting, I’m making a commitment to be there on time. When someone else is late to the meeting, I get the feeling that they figure they’ve got something more important than my time. Sorry I’m late, but traffic was brutal is an excuse I hear all the time. Well, I had to get to the meeting through the same traffic, and I was on-time. If I’ve got a meeting in the morning, I’ll check the traffic reports or look out the window and make sure I leave early enough to get to the meeting. I respect the other people at the meeting enough that I’m not going to waste their time by being late.

I just realized that this also applies to monetary issues. I’ve had clients who never pay on time. They agree in a contract to pay my invoices net-30 and then checks arrive like clockwork 45-60 days after the invoice. I won’t work with that sort of client anymore. I’ve got yet another job that I put in a bid on yesterday, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that this client habitually pays late. When we meet to discuss terms, I’m going to make it very clear that late payment on their part will be considered breach of contract. Fuck it. It’s not worth my time to try and wheedle payment out of them, so if they don’t pay, work is stopping, and I’ll hand the collections over to the lawyer. It may cost me the job, but at least it’ll keep me from getting upset with the client.

And I think that’s got to be my long-term approach. If a client’s not willing to honor their commitments, whether it’s showing up on time for a meeting, or getting a check in the mail, I’m not sure why I would want to work for them. I don’t need the headaches. Now I just have to figure out how to deal with the current client. Maybe changing the meeting to the afternoon will be the answer.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:08:58.