Here’s Why A Deadline Is So Important
A common misconception among the general public is the thought that when you own your own business, you are “the boss” and free to set your business hours as you like and only work when it pleases you. The ability to control things such as your working hours is one of the chief incentives that tempt many creative types to go into business for themselves.
When you are working for yourself, it’s true that you are no longer an employee that receives some sort of warning from a manager for showing up to work a few minutes late. But, you also don’t have as much freedom and flexibility as you might wish when it comes to setting your working hours.
When you open your own business, it’s important to remember that even if you hire a staff to take care of sales and customer service, you will still have clients and customers who will have a set time for when they expect to receive your product or service. You will need to either produce the service yourself, or oversee operations to ensure that these products and services are produced and delivered before your customer’s due date.
Creating and delivering your products and services on time is integral to your ability to stay in business.
Why do They Call it a Deadline Anyway?
The importance of providing your services on time to your customers is conveyed in the very words that we use to define this concept – the deadline. This term was first used in the American Civil War and referred to a boundary line in the prisoner’s stockade. Prisoners that crossed this line were shot dead.
The term deadline was later picked up by editors and used in the newspaper and publishing industry to refer to limits. One can only imagine the frustration that the first editor to use the term deadline must have felt when a breaking news story went unreported because an article was turned in late!
In the newspaper industry, the time limit was both physical and implied. It was literal because the deadline referred to the literal limit created by the physical typeset line, outside of which the characters were “dead” because they would not print on the paper, and secondly the term referred to the time limit to turn in one’s submission to the editor so that the typeface characters could be reset and it could be printed in the latest edition of the newspaper.
Today, we use the term deadline to refer to any sort of important due date. As a small business owner, it’s unlikely you will literally be shot dead by one of your clients if you miss a deadline to deliver your products or services. However, if you miss a few deadlines you will soon earn a reputation for not being dependable or reliable and this news will spread as surely as if it had been printed in a newspaper! Your days of keeping the doors open at your business and being the boss will be numbered if you develop a reputation for constantly being late and missing deadlines.
Tips to Avoid Missed Deadlines
As a small business owner you do have some flexibility as to how and when you work, but you are also under constant pressure to perform, and it can be easy to miss a deadline. This is especially true if you have to rely on the work of others to make your finished product or service that you supply your clients.
If you can see that you are going to miss a deadline, you will be much better off if you prepare your client and let them know before the deadline passes. In this way, they can make alternative plans to get the item before it’s needed and will appreciate your honesty and transparency. Hopefully they will appreciate your efforts enough to give you another chance to exceed their expectations in the future.
Your clients may not say anything to you directly if it’s the first time you’re late, but it’s unlikely that they will overlook or forget a missed deadline whether or not they mention the deadline to you. This is why it’s so important for you to expect and plan for delays when you agree to work for your clients.
Something as simple as adding in a few extra hours, or even days, when you make a projection and agree to work can give you some much needed breathing room. This will allow you to still be able to complete a client’s project on time should something come up that might cause a delay.
Even if you don’t end up needing the extra time, you’ve completed the work early and thus exceeded your clients’ expectations. Beat those deadlines enough and word of your reliability and excellence will spread as well!
One last consideration to keep in mind is that if you find that you are frequently missing deadlines, despite all of your planning and efforts, it may be a good idea to conduct a thorough review of all of your operations and seek ways to streamline and improve your processes. Even if you aren’t missing deadlines and things seem to be running smoothly, a periodic review of your processes and procedures can help you to discover potential issues before they turn into problems for both you and your clients.
Now that you have a better understanding of the meaning of the term deadline, and its importance in running a successful business, it’s time to use your customer’s deadlines to your advantage! Rather than seeing a deadline as a dreaded boundary that you must not cross, start to view deadlines as opportunities to exceed expectations by under-promising and over-delivering. Doing so will delight your customers and build your relationship with them as you will gain trust and respect by going above and beyond what they expect!