Here’s a lesson I’ve learned many times during the years I’ve been
working for myself. I once organized a public lecture for about 20 people. There was quite a lot of work involved: obtaining confirmations from the attendees, checking who had paid, forwarding names and numbers to the venue, getting people’s preferences for lunch, printing the lecture notes, and so
on. Almost everyone who signed up for the lecture was co-operative and easy to deal with. There was one exception, whom I’ll call Bill and who was rather hard work. Trying to get information from Bill was like trying to pull teeth. He was hopeless at returning calls or messages.

In fact, for the ten days immediately before the event, I didn’t hear from Billi at all. This was rather exasperating and caused problems for me, the venue, and some of the other attendees. It later transpired that Bill had gone on holiday for these ten days — without thinking to tell me or anyone who might have wanted to contact him. Of course, in this day and age, even being on holiday doesn’t mean you can’t reply to an email or a text message. “Yeah,” shrugged Bill when I politely raised this point during a coffee break, “I didn’t think to check my messages
while I was away.” Well, thanks a lot, Bill!
The lecture went ahead as planned with Bill in attendance. As he had caused quite a few problems for me and for others, it would have been understandable if I had behaved rather angrily towards Bill or at least been rather cold and distant, simmering with thinly veiled contempt and resentment. Instead, I treated Bill in the same warm, polite, and friendly way I treated everyone else.
I’m glad I did. About six months later, Bill got in touch and gave me a huge chunk of very well paid work. If I had fallen out with him on the lecture day or made my real feelings clear, I would have never have got that work.

Point to Ponder
Lesson: Even when it’s hard, always treat people well. You never know when they might do you, and your business, a big favor.
Commentary: Business is about people and, as we all know, people
can be maddening, exasperating, and difficult to deal with. However, you never know the future. Sometimes, heroes hide their capes and angels keep their wings tucked back. Be slow to snarl, argue, and criticize. As a general rule, talk to everyone the way you would if you knew that, six months from now, you were either going to need their help or they might be thinking of giving you some lucrative work. This is a policy that pays off well.

Extracted from Stories to Learn from by Ian Rowland

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