Late Is Rude and Bad for Small Business


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Punctuality is the politeness of kings.

Small business owners have smaller margins for error than our larger big-company counterparts. One way a person, a company, can stand out and avoid error is to respect people’s time. By being on time.

Your Business Blogger was reminded of this truth last year while working with small businesses in a trade show. Some 10,000 of us sat of the feet of the keynote speaker Karen Hughes, presidential advisor. She was flogging her book Ten Minutes from Normal about working on the political campaign trail.

She recounted the story of President Bush’s particular concern about being on time. She once asked the President (who has an MBA) why they were leaving so early for a meeting. He said:

“Three words: Late is rude.”

Getting down to business is best done in the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. It can best start by checking your watch. Promptness is the soul of business said Lord Chesterfield 1694 – 1773. Timeliness is impressive.

More recently, Emily Post has much to say on the courtesy of timeliness. In Business Etiquette — Tips on Making a Good First Impression Post reminds us — when traveling to an appointment you should “know how to get there and how long it will take. (BEING ON TIME IS CRITICAL).” Emphasis in original.

But being on time is sometimes not good enough. One of football’s most successful coaches would tell his players to show up 10 minutes early or be considered late. This discipline is known as “Vince Lombardi time.”

Lombardi won games, in part, with the discipline of punctuality. This also teaches the value of time: Man has no nobler or more valuable possession…. as Beethoven said.

Being punctual will demonstrate the politeness of kings. And courtesy to your clients. It would please even the French, like Louise XVIII. Punctuality is the politeness of kings.

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Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.