Don’t underestimate the power of etiquette. It’s sneaky. If you understand it and are comfortable with it, it’s invisible. If you don’t / aren’t, people notice quickly. First impressions count, and a good first impression may get you an interview (not to mention a full-fledged job), a date (not to mention a future spouse), a project (not to mention a national contract)… well, you get the picture.
In this first issue, we’re just going to cover some ridiculously basic stuff. We’ll get into specifics later.
First of all, the old standard Golden Rule holds in all aspects of life and business. Here at PLiNTH & CHiNTZ we consider “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” just part of living in a civilized society. Yes, you’re going to encounter mean people who lie and cheat their way through life, but you can’t let them get you down. Just feel sorry for them because they are probably miserable, unhappy people who will die 40-lbs overweight and all alone. Keep taking the high road. It may not seem like it now, but it’s worth it.
Don’t burn bridges. It may seem huge to you now, but this industry is incredibly small. Everybody knows everybody. If they don’t, they’re just a phone call or email away. You don’t always have control over what manufacturer is bidding what project, what contractor is a college buddy of your client, what furniture dealer is a cousin of the real estate broker, etc. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s reality. Be adult. Be professional. Don’t gossip. It doesn’t mean you can’t call people on their deception or poor behavior, but just do so with tact because you never know who is listening. Note: This condition is not specific to the A&D community. Yes, Virginia, unfortunately the real world is similar to Junior High.
Admit when you’re wrong. Immediately. Preempt the co-worker, the boss, the client. In this business, mistakes can potentially cost your client or your company lots and lots of money. It’s 1000x better to admit your mistake than to have someone else find it. Admitting a wrong shows integrity and fortitude. In this current Age of Blame & Litigation, people will respect you for it. However, the key is not only to admit the wrong, but also to a) do it quickly, b) show genuine remorse, and c) come up with a solution (or several alternatives). You will win big points for this kind of behavior. It may not seem so at the time, but people will remember you and trust you for it. On the flipside, if people know you are lying, you will lose their trust, and ultimately their business.
Smile. Laugh. To be incredibly clichéd, don’t sweat the small stuff. A warning to all of you control freaks out there: this business is weird and unpredictable. All sorts of things can go wrong at any time. For this reason, it’s exciting and frustrating all at the same time. You are going to have clients that drive you insane with unreasonable demands. You are going to have bosses that ask you to stay late to get out a last-minute presentation. You are going to have manufacturers who can’t ship product when they said they would because a piece of $1M machinery broke down due to a freak power surge. Unprofessional people will yell at you. You may want to burst into tears. It’s OK. Go to the restroom, give yourself a good cry, clean yourself up, get yourself a caffeinated beverage (or alcoholic one if you are so inclined), pull yourself together and get back on that horse. Even though it seems so, the world won’t end because the Italian leather tanners went on strike and your client won’t get their chairs for three more weeks. Be calm, explain the situation, and hope for the best. Reasonable people will understand when something is out of your control. Unreasonable people won’t. If they fall into the latter category, get through the project as best you can and then lose them. We don’t care how rich the client may be – if they can’t be professional, then they don’t deserve your services. So there!