Recently, a client asked me to review the contract he had just signed. This is not unusual. Within the past month, I have been asked on no fewer than four occasions to look over an email a client had already sent to make sure it was OK.
Each time this happens, I wonder, often out loud to my clients, why they’re paying me to do this. I know the answer, of course. They’re having sender’s (or signer’s) remorse. They wished they had checked with me first but decided against it for fear of delay or added expense.
In a career of working with deadline-driven businesses (meaning virtually all businesses), I have learned the truth of what my father had long ago told me: “People rarely remember how fast you do something, but they’ll always remember how well you did it.” While this is not to say that deadlines should be ignored without so much as a passing glance, it does mean that sometimes — maybe even often — deadlines are not what they’re cracked up to be.
I can’t count how many times people have told me that they either have to accept a contract, job offer or proposal by a certain immediate deadline or lose out entirely. Almost invariably, what the person on the other end of that threat needs to hear is that s/he is not being ignored and that there is an established time when a substantive response will be given. On those rare occasions (and I do mean “rare”) when an immediate deadline can’t be moved, you will be told in no uncertain terms.
Otherwise, relax. Take the time to think. Regret almost always accompanies proposals accepted under pressure. Many times, attorney’s fees and litigation follow.
So, my advice, brought on by the phone call I received not ten minutes ago, is this:
Don’t allow someone else’s deadlines to shortcut your process. No one deserves that much control. Instead, respond with an action plan giving yourself some breathing room.
Oh, and don’t bother asking for your lawyer’s opinion on that contract you already signed. At least not unless you buy him a beer first.