Finding a vendor, employee or partner who will consistently play their part is one of the great challenges in business. Want to win in this world? I've found that the most simple and effective tactic is to be the most dependable. Unfortunately, that's a quality that's often severely lacking in the service industry. My family and I are in the midst of buying our dream house. It had everything we wanted and in a location we love, so we put in an offer. The offer was accepted and we were quickly approved by the bank with an amazing rate. The under-writers signed off, we released our contingencies and put $25k down. Things were clean as a whistle until we showed up to sign the final paperwork and there were no papers to sign! The bank with whom our loan was being processed had apparently changed its lending policies -- we "no longer qualified." Now we needed to put down a full 30% to get the loan. We had two options: 1. Lose our deposit, or, 2. come up with an additional $65k we didn't have -- within 2 days. Thankfully, we were able to secure a "gift loan" from family and get the house. Tragically, though, my story is far from unique, both in real estate and among service businesses in general. Dependability is becoming a rare trait in business. Though it wasn't necessarily his fault, I no longer have any real incentive to work with that particular mortgage broker again. And I certainly have no plans to deal with the bank any more than I already must. My story is an illustration of the importance of dependability, both for your customers and as a quality to seek in your business partners.
I wish my mortgage broker called me weeks before the signing and said, "Shane, I think something weird is going on. I've never seen this in my 30 years of lending. The bank is changing their guidelines and has implied that it might affect your loan, despite already having been through underwriting. Lets brainstorm together some backup options just in case." But he didn't. He and his team figured they would battle the issues quietly without "bothering me." I'm sure they worked hard -- probably harder than on most loans, yet despite all that, I will most likely never use their services again. Not because of what happened with the mortgage, which ultimately wasn't his fault, but because he failed the test of accountability. Dependability simply comes down to meeting expectations, and accountability is the relationship side of that. You have to do what you say you are going to do. In principal, that would be awesome. In reality, of course, life is complicated and things change. So, in this world of continuous change, how do you stay dependable? By managing expectations and always being accountable.
How many people would consider the Big Mac to be the best tasting hamburger in the world? Probably not many. Yet, despite its culinary shortcomings, the McDonald's signature hamburger is so successful and ubiquitous that The Economist uses it as a reference point for comparing the cost of living in different countries. How is it that a mediocre hamburger has become so successful around the world? I believe the reason has a lot to do with dependability. No matter where in the world I am or what time of the year it is, if I walk into a McDonald's, I can depend on getting the exact same Big Mac. The fry machine will be on left. There will always be ketchup. The entire business is built upon the philosophy of amazing consistency with just acceptable quality. After years of working with freelancers, I've concluded that dependability often trumps talent. I would rather have a solid coder who consistently delivers than a temperamental genius. I'm not in business to gamble. I will choose 100 small wins stacked on top of each other, day in day out, over a few meteoric successes surrounded by an unstable pattern of failures. You might make the world's best burger on your best day, but McDonald's makes more money than you do, and they do it by being dependable.
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