Common sense Featured

12:19pm EDT May 26, 2004
Recently, I had a meeting that never took place. I was to meet with an entrepreneur for coffee, at his request -- his multiple requests -- for he had called me several times to set up the appointment, confirm, then reconfirm.

I was there on time. He wasn't.

He claims he got lost on I-271, and, after 40 minutes of cell phone calls and excuses, I left. After I left, he called to say he was still 15 minutes away from the meeting site.

Business etiquette should be common sense, but it is exactly this type of behavior that has nixed deals. Here are eight suggestions that will help ensure that foolishness doesn't kill your deal.

1. When you make an appointment, be there. And be there early. Use a map. Get directions. Know where you are going, and be there.

2. If the meeting is at mealtime, don't order a drink. And, if it is an occasion where drinking would be appropriate, pay for the drinks.

3. If you are not sure of something, don't guess. Saying, "I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you," is a legitimate answer to a question. Guessing will kill your deal.

4. Don't hide problems. You don't have to lead off with a problem, but if you are speaking with investors, they are going to learn the problem eventually.

5. Never surprise anyone. Tell the good news, but also tell the bad. Every business has bad news, and it's not always a deal-breaker. Surprises can be.

6. Don't claim you have no competition. If you do, odds are that you either don't know your market very well or there isn't a valid market for your product or service.

7. Never base your business plan on getting a certain, modest percentage of the market. You might be able to show that you'll make a boatload of money if you "only capture 2 percent of the market," but there probably are 500 other companies that plan to snag 2 percent of the market. The math doesn't work.

8. In your pro formas, do not automatically increase your sales by a fixed percentage or amount. There must be a reason you are selling more each year. State the driver of increased sales, and make it believable and convincing. Erwin Bruder (ebruder@gordian.org) is president of The Gordian Organization. Reach him at (216) 292-2271.