The Most Costly Mistake in Business: 
Five Lessons in Punctuality


August 20, 2009 By Bradley Will


You are driving to meet with a potential client for a noon appointment at Starbucks.  You get there and grab a mocha frappe latte and claim one of the small tables while you wait upon their arrival.  11:50… 11:57… 12:01… 12:05… and still a no-show.  You decide to stick it out for a few minutes giving them the benefit of the doubt until it is 15-minutes after.  Finally, your guest comes rushing through the door saying, “I am sooooooooo sorry to keep you waiting.


Like you had anything better to do, right?  They come up with some lame excuse on why they were late.  You may hear, “My dog peed on my leg and I and to clean my pants.” Or something like, “My G.P.S. gave me the wrong directions.

Let’s take the money out of the picture for a second. Would you really want to work with someone who has no concern for your time?  Starting a business relationship on that note can be doomed from the start.  How can you ever rely on someone who cannot stick by his or her word?

Lesson #1: People who cannot be punctual, cannot be trusted.

One of my biggest annoyances is when people don’t have a respect for my time when we get on the phone.  I am not the poster child for what I preach here, but let’s say we are on the phone together.  One thing I always do up front is tell people how much time I have to talk.  I will say, “Before we get started, I want to let you know that I only have 15 minutes to talk and then I have to catch another call.”  Even if you have a WIDE OPEN day, I would still set aside a certain amount of time to talk to that person.  I don’t want to turn a 15-minute conversation into an hour-long time drainer.

When you set the standards up front, usually most people will respect and be aware of your time.  Regardless, it is our choice who we spend time with.  When we respect our own time, so will others.  If someone ever apologizes for wasting your time, take the power back.  Say, “With all due respect, I am the only one who has the power to do that!”  Once you give away your power and allow people to waste your time, you’re screwed.

Lesson #2: Nobody has the power to waste your time except you.

Examining your punctuality is like a window into your life.  You can really judge someone’s habits (yes successful people are no dummies and will judge you and go with their gut instinct) by looking at how well they keep their word and appointments.  If you don’t respect your own time, how will that reflect on the other areas of your life?

A lack of punctuality could reveal that you may also like to sleep in late, stay out all night partying, or just waste precious time in your everyday life.   If you are late for a meeting with someone successful, they are probably thinking, “If she has no concern for this appointment, there personal life must also be a train wreck.”

People who are rarely on time are usually lack self-discipline, being disorganized and ill prepared.  Just look at the people in your life that are ones who show up early versus showing up late.  I think we both know which one you would do business with.  Successful people understand this.  You only have one shot to make a good impression.  Don’t blow it!

Lesson #3: Successful people will judge your character based on your punctuality.

If you feel like no one respects your time, there is one solution. Respect your time!  Respect your own time and always be aware of the other person’s time.  Think about those 10-minute calls that drag on for over an hour.  Once, I had to repeatedly request to someone we end the call after we had 7 additional “one more things”.  Don’t ever hold someone up longer than you have to.  If they say they have to go, they have to go…period.

When you start respecting your own time, the people around you will be aware of it.  Let’s say you are in sales and you are regularly late for appointments.  How can you ever demand someone to show up on time for your appointment?  Even for the people you are training on your sales team.  Your bad habit is contagious.  But, once you become punctual, you have the ability to posture someone up front so they are always conscious of your time.

Lesson #4: Punctuality gives you posture and power.

I hate being late for anything.  Long are the days where I thought it was cool to be “fashionably late”.  If you plan on holding people up, there is only reason they will be looking at you…because you look like a clown.  Trust me.  I recently hosted a teleseminar.  I thought I was well prepared, so I hopped on 5 minutes before the call.  Well, it just so happened to be that I was perplexed by the new system and held up the 100+ people on the call.  If I had taken an extra 10 minutes to get on early and prepare, it would have been as smooth as ice.  According to Vince Lombardi, or Lombardi Time, “If your 15 minutes early, you’re late.”

Lesson #5: To be early is on time, to be on time is late.

Punctuality is many times overlooked as a key component to success in business.  Many young entrepreneurs are destroying their reputation and they may not even know it.  I always seem to pick up great lessons from movies and here is a famous quote recited by Al Pachino from the movie Scarface (sorry for the vulgarity, but I think you get the point)...”All I have in this world is my b*lls and my word and I don’t break them for no one.”


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