What happens when you miss a meeting or a deadline to a service provider? Suppose you have a deadline to submit a document for review to a business advisor (lawyer, accountant, marketing professional…) Friday at 5 pm and you don’t send the document until noon on Sunday? If you want a response at 10 am on Monday, do you think it will still happen? What happens if you didn’t even call the service provider on Friday to let him know the document would not be arriving? Do you think he’ll spend the entire weekend checking his e-mail just to see if you’ve sent the document after all? Do you think you will get “squeezed in” on Monday morning so that you will still have an answer by 10 am?

What does it mean to you when someone says if you get me the document by 5 pm on Friday, I can have comments back to you by 10 am on Monday? Does it means that the person will be fitting a review of your document in over the weekend between other projects and commitments and you need to be certain it BEFORE s/he leaves the office on Friday at 5 pm so the document will not be stuck in the office? Or does it sound as though if you get it to me any time before 10 am on Monday (when you need the answer) I’ll drop everything for all my other clients, speed read the entire document, cram in any research on any issues with which am not familiar, look up any past agreements or items in your files which we may have discussed, and be able to give you a comprehensive analysis in a blink of an eye…Yeah, those two things sound the same to me too.

If you expect your business advisors to be able to review your business situations and provide you with sound advice, then you must provide them with documents and information needed for a review. Additionally, you must provide that information in a timely manner to enable the advisor to review, research, and assimilate the information into meaningful content. Reading is fundamental to advising. Comprehension and application of the information into your situation is critical to providing relevant advice. Context. Context. Context. It takes time.

Service advisors are unlikely to be sitting idle waiting for your call or your document. They serve multiple clients and have multiple projects, so scheduling and communication are key to coordinating the information flow and exchange with your advisors. Large advisory firms still must coordinate the hand-off of information between representatives and specialists within that firm, so lawyers, accountants, auditors, and other service providers rely on clients to communicate deadlines and keep to schedules as much as possible to facilitate the flow of information.

Too often, service providers are viewed as on-demand – regardless of whether or not a client meets the deadline to them or not. Reality check – service providers rarely have only one client. Time is their capacity and their dollars. Scheduling is critical and time is literally money. While an advisor may be able to squeeze you in for an “emergency” consistently or give you quick turnaround on projects, it doesn’t mean that every deadline is flexible or that they will always be available at a moment’s notice. The scheduling that has taken place behind the scenes for those emergencies and quick turns may or may not have been extraordinary, but it has been behind the scenes and within the management of the providers’ scheduling. Other clients have projects, deadlines, and appointments. The coordination and control of “last minute” items can be managed with scheduling – no appointments or missed appointments and deadlines are another matter in the grand plan. If you have a Monday deadline for a deal with a customer or a potential investor and you’ve asked your lawyer to look at documents, then missed getting the documents to your lawyer in time for them to be reviewed, don’t look at your lawyer as if there is a problem. You missed the deadline; your lawyer didn’t!

A related “assumption” of behavior which falls into the “don’t do” category: if you don’t engage the advisor whether by acceptance letter, contract, retainer, or whatever means the advisor has for being hired, then don’t expect the advisor to do any work for you. He or she isn’t your advisor if you haven’t hired them. Sending them a bunch of documents via mail, Fedex, or e-mail, doesn’t a relationship create, so don’t presume it does.


Copyright ©2007 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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