I have a theory that all rules to govern good behavior, leadership, business practices, etc. boil down to one simple tenet, The Golden Rule – treat others as you would have them treat you. In this series of posts, I’m going to look back and tell some stories, mostly about where I made mistakes and what I learned from them, that reinforce my theory.
The first one that leapt to mind happened when I had Advanced Media Post, my boutique post-production facility, during the late nineties and early aughts. I had a very annoying client. Despite being one of our smallest accounts (we were creating DVDs of his agency’s work), he was very demanding, sometimes unreasonably so. For example, he had a very specific color scheme for his brand, which, of course, is not unusual. What he stubbornly failed grasp was that regardless of the graphics we used for menus, or he used in stingers for his videos, the colors were never going to be true on a TV. If you’ve ever gone to an electronics store and looked at the same video playing on multiple TVs, I’m sure you understand. No two look alike. I was getting nearly daily calls and emails with various complaints, but mostly that we weren’t delivering the quality he expected.
I stopped responding to him, which, of course, only frustrated him more. Finally, he let me know he was closing his account and coming by to pick up his materials. I was relieved to be rid of him. When he came by, I was braced for a confrontation, but he was quite calm. He sat down in my office and explained that the reason he was pulling his business was not due to the work product, but the fact that I stopped communicating with him. He said that even a simple acknowledgement of his emails and/or voice mails would have made a huge difference. He gathered up his materials and left.
That conversation had a huge impact on me. I’ve always strived since then to, at minimum, acknowledge a communication in a timely manner, even if I don’t have an answer. I’m not perfect and I continue to receive the odd follow-up prior to my response, for which I am always profusely apologetic.
Back to the Golden Rule, for any communication for which a response is borderline, I put myself in the other person’s shoes. Would I expect a response and be unhappy if I didn’t get one? In some cases, like a sales cold call/email/DM, I might not respond, but I don’t expect responses to my cold communications. In most cases, I do respond, even it is just to respond with “Got your message, I’ll get back to you ASAP” or “…when I have an answer.”
It’s simple – treat others as you would have them treat you.