Would you look into your client’s eyes and say, “My time is more valuable than yours”?

Of course not.

But business people the world around do basically the same thing all the time. I’m even willing to bet that you’ve done it yourself.

Last Friday, it happened to me three times. First, I waited until 7:45 for my 7:30 yoga class to begin. Then I waited 25 minutes in the dentist’s office. And then I waited an hour for a pre-scheduled phone call with a real estate agent. (By the way, the only person who apologized for the delay was my yoga instructor.)

In each case, the message was clear: These people are important, and their time is valuable. And mine isn’t.

If you’re making your clients wait, you’re sending the same signal. And that lack of respect for their time could make them head for the door.

I know, I know. You don’t mean to make people wait. But when unexpected “emergencies” come up, you just can’t help it. Well, Bob Cox, ETR’s expert on achievement and productivity, has a solution for you. “Unplanned events will demand your time every week,” Bob says. “To minimize the amount of time these external distractions ’steal’ from you, add a buffer to your daily to-do list.”

This might take a little trial and error. The idea is to find out how long it generally takes you to perform a service – whether it’s shampooing a dog or tailoring a suit or cleaning someone’s teeth. Then, once you have an average, add on a little extra time.

For instance, if you’re a personal trainer and your sessions tend to run five minutes late, give yourself a 10-minute cushion. That way, if you’re running late – or some of your clients are running late – you have a few minutes you can “borrow” from without eating up your other clients’ time. And if it turns out that you don’t have to use up your cushion, you’ll have some extra time to catch up on paperwork or find more clients.

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