Updated: Wed, 02/20/2013 - 01:03

Punctuality a must in business

Portrait of Lydia Ramsey for her book jacket  Chia Chiung Chong
Chia Chiung Chong
Portrait of Lydia Ramsey for her book jacket
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Last week as I was literally racing down the road to get to an appointment on time, I had a sudden revelation. This was not uncommon for me. This was becoming a regular occurrence. I am never late — well, almost never — but I am often dashing into meetings or appointments at the very last moment with coat tails flying.

Of course, that means I am usually stressed and a bit frazzled.

Living in beautiful Savannah, I am aware of what is called “Savannah time.” No one is expected to arrive early. Most people show up right on the dot of the appointed hour. Others wander in at their leisure, always with an apology and an excuse, but late all the same. I feel myself on the verge of joining the latter group of late comers.

I tend to think I can get one more thing done before I leave for the meeting or event. For example, if the phone should ring just as I am walking out the door, I feel obligated to answer it. When I finally get in the car and check the dashboard clock, I realize that if I am lucky and get all green lights, I may be on time.

I seldom allow for traffic issues along the way or remember that I live on an island whose only access is a draw bridge. More than a few times I have sat and watched some mega yacht or a lazy sailboat pass by as precious minutes were ticking away. When will I ever learn?

The answer is now. That is my No. 1 business etiquette resolution for 2013. I am going to be on time. That doesn’t mean arriving just in the nick of time. It means following the advice of the late Vince Lombardi who said, “If you are 5 minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, don’t bother to show up.”

In Wisconsin they call that “Lombardi time.”

From now on my goal is to arrive 5 minutes early. No more than that because I don’t want to intrude on those setting up the meeting or managing the event.

Punctuality is critical to good business relationships. People who are late are sending a message that they do not value other people’s time and they have more important things to do. Think how you are viewed when you don’t make the effort to be punctual.

Do you want to be seen as inconsiderate or self-important? That probably won’t help you grow your business or represent your organization positively.

Here a few tips to help you be on time and how to handle the situation when you are not:

Don’t stop to take the last phone call. You can check your voice mail later but absolutely not during the meeting. If the call was important, the caller will have left you a message.

Have everything you need for the meeting or event out in one place so you aren’t scrambling around trying to find that one important thing — like your car keys.

Decide how long it will take you to get to the event and add some extra time. That will allow for traffic jams, road construction and other unexpected occurrences.

If you are not 100 percent sure where you are going, do a test run ahead of time if possible. No one will be impressed when you say you got lost. If you can’t check out the location in advance, be sure to add extra travel time.

If the worst should happen and you enter the meeting late, quietly take a seat. This is no time to interrupt to make your apologies and to explain to everyone why you were late.

Check the agenda to see what items have already been covered. The late comer who interrupts the meeting to ask about an issue that has already been covered is not appreciated.

So in 2013, join me in vowing to be on “Lombardi time” from now on. Old habits are hard to break, but what better time to start than a month into a new year?

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based international business expert, speaker, trainer and author of Manners That Sell — Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. You can contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her website at www.mannersthatsell.com.

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