A little communication goes a long way

Twice in the last week I have been waiting for a business partner to do something and confirm that they will do it before the deadline. Twice they have failed to respond or communicate what they were planning to do until the very last moment. This is so bloody aggravating! In each case they have actually delivered but only after considerable amount of wasted emotional energy on my part trying to find out what was happening. It causes so much angst.

It may seem trivial, but in any entrepreneurial activity you need to depend on your business partners. After all it is not as though you have the resources of a FTSE100 company. If one of you doesn’t do it then no-one else will. You are doing too many things at the same time and good communication between partners is critical to success. In fact so much of what you do is dependent on trust. You need to be 100% confident that all sides will do what they say they say they are going to do without a moment’s hesitation. Everybody needs to rely on the other person.

I notice this increasingly in business – people are becoming really poor at managing expectations. The one thing a training in Advertising gives you is to think through scenarios in advance and in particular how to manage your client’s expectations. I learnt this at DMB&B time after time. What does your client want and when and what will you do if you can’t deliver to them on time because the creative work isn’t right yet? Similarly this is a very valuable skill as an entrepreneur. You need to manage the expectations of your business partners. You need to deliver what you say you are going to do or tell them a long time in advance. You need to put yourself in their shoes and think about their perspective.

And when this type of situation happens, you have to take time to explain to your business partner why it matters and why they have to manage you better. You can’t just let it go and sweep it under the carpet. You haven’t got time for it to happen again.

And this small incident illustrates two critical points for making it work with your business partners:

  1. Talk all the time. Make sure that you over communicate. Make sure that you praise when it is needed and criticise constructively when it is also required. Never stop talking.
  2. Know and understand how your business partners operate. Learn to recognise how they will behave in particular situations and then manage accordingly. It will save you a lot of time and energy.  As John Bates, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, London Business School and entrepreneur says; “Practice is the most important part of making it work with your fellow entrepreneurs. You have to know how they operate. It is not like an employment relationship. It is based on trust. It is much more intuitive.”

So it’s worth remembering the saying that a little communication goes a long way, especially when you are an entrepreneur!