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Deadlines Matter: Here's Why

For some reason, I’ve had a rash of vendors and business relationships recently that have missed deadlines.  So as usual, I’m on a rant.  While you might be hearing otherwise, deadlines matter, and they matter for a lot of reasons.  Here are just a few:

1.  When you miss a deadline, you’re telling your employer or clients that their priorities don’t matter.
  You’re sending them the message that your time is more important than their projects.  Even if that were true, it’s not a perception you want them to have.  After all, if your time is more important than their projects, then they’ll find someone else to work for them.

2.  You’re sending your employer or client a message that you’re not organized.  If you can’t hit a deadline, then something’s wrong.  Either you’re incompetent or don’t know how to schedule your time.  Either way, that’s not someone I want to be in business with.

3.  Finally – it undermines your credibility.  Hey – you promised that you’d hit the deadline, and when you don’t, it makes you a liar, plain and simple.

Here’s the bottom line:  Sure, there are a million reasons (many actually legitimate) that cause you to be late delivering on a project.  But being late is being late – not a good thing.  If you know it’s going to happen, here’s my advice:

1.  Don’t commit to the deadline. 
The truth is your good intentions don’t matter.  All that matters is hitting the deadline.  If you can’t do that, you’re toast.  So don’t promise what you know you can’t deliver.

2.  Let the client know the minute (or second) you realize you’ll be late.  I had one vendor who was terrified to tell me he wasn’t going to make the deadline.  So he’d wait until the last minute to tell me.  Problem was, at the last minute, it was too late to do anything about it.  So I was totally screwed.  Tell the client the minute you can’t make it, so he or she can make alternative plans.  Believe me, they’ll have a much better feeling for you than if you leave them hanging.

3. Finally – hit the deadline.  If it weren’t important, the employer or client wouldn’t have given it to you.  I don’t care if you don’t think the deadline is important – it’s important to the client.  Do whatever it takes, but hit it.  Trust me – your value to the employer or client will rise enormously, and that’s always worth it.

Be the person who everyone knows will always hit the deadline, and you’ll be working for life.  

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Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles (CookeMediaGroup.com) where his team helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively through media. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."