It all depends on your definition of professional. Let me set the stage:
I like to maximize my time, especially when I have to drive a considerable distance to meet with potential clients. When I schedule an appointment I always follow the same protocol:
- Ask if there are special instructions needed to find their office.
- Ask for the best phone number to use in the event I need to reach him/her the day of our appointment.
- Provide my cell number in case they need to contact me.
- Verify the date and time before ending our conversation.
- Send a hand-written note expressing thanks for the opportunity to meet in person and write out the day, date and time of our pending appointment.
I do this every single time. No exceptions.
Tuesday morning I drove 90 minutes to conduct two appointments, which I’d conveniently scheduled back-to-back at 9:30 and 11:00. I arrived to the 9:30 appointment five minutes early, but since there was no one in the reception area, I had to search their building to find someone to assist me. Upon seeing two female employees chatting in an office, I politely asked for their company president, with whom I had the appointment. One (rather dourly) said, “Well he’s not here.” I politely countered, “I am five minutes early. Should I wait back at the front desk?” With an exasperated sigh, I was told to just wait where I was.
Over the next forty minutes, frustration mounting, I observed three employees with little to no interest in what happened outside of their individual office doors; I was informed the company president “is always late,” as if that justifies and/or excuses his bad behavior; I was told there was no way to phone him (baloney), but he had been pinged; and I was simply ignored. Just as I determined to leave the building, the third employee offered to call the president and the phone was handed to me. Here’s where my story gets really interesting.
Rather than apologize and take responsibility for his absence, the president of the company’s opening comments to me were simply, “Are you that woman. . . ? I got caught in another meeting, but I can be there in twenty-five minutes.” For what should be very obvious reasons, this did not end well. I reminded him how far I had driven to meet with him, and still received no apology. He suggested I wait for his arrival. I told him that was inconvenient for me, and I had other meetings scheduled for the remainder of the day. He told me to send him an email and reschedule, and that ended our conversation.
I have no intention of driving three more hours (total) to meet someone who shows such an obvious disregard for my time, and who displays blatant disrespect for me as a professional. At the very least, a courtesy call to let me know he was late would have been the professional and polite thing to do. However, I do not believe for a moment he was “caught in another meeting.”
Why do I bother going through all those motions when I schedule an appointment?
- I am setting the stage for the business relationship I hope to form.
- My actions speak loudly, and I want my potential client to “hear” me say I am a qualified and credible professional, who respects and values the time they agreed to share with me.
- This is a way to softly verify our calendars are talking to each other, especially with the “reminder” note that follows our phone conversation.
When we model bad behavior for our employees, our vendors, and our clients, we breed working environments full of professionals behaving badly. I cannot blame the three employees with whom I interacted during my forty-minute nightmare on Tuesday morning. They are simply behaving in the same disrespectful and casual manner they see daily from the man at the helm, whose actions speak far louder than his words.