A jewelry artist I work with called me in a panic the other day. She’d landed two new galleries recently and was having trouble making her delivery deadlines.
The reasons don’t really matter. Suffice it to say that events out of her control had already forced her to ask for one extension and now she was looking at having to ask for another. To top it off, the deadline for a juried show she’d been accepted into was also rapidly approaching.
Bottom line: there was no way she could make all these deadlines. Something had to give.
She started our conversation by trying to figure out the minimum extension to ask the gallery owners for. She was so worried about permanently damaging these relationships that she was setting herself up for an overwhelming work schedule with no room for error or additional delays.
I reminded her that things go wrong – that’s part of business (and life) – the important thing is how you make them right.
Talking with her took me back to the early days of owning my studio. We prided ourselves on never missing a deadline but instead of asking clients when they really needed everything, we’d figure out the minimum amount of time necessary to complete the work and make that our delivery date. Things would go wrong and we’d kill ourselves – pulling all-nighters, skipping meals, canceling appointments – only to discover that the client didn’t actually need the files for another week!
Eventually we learned to ask our clients what their real deadlines were. 99% of the time, the date they picked was after the date we would have offered. And, if they needed something fast, we knew those all-nighters and skipped meals were for a good reason. We still pride ourselves on never missing a deadline but having realistic deadlines makes it a whole lot easier.
This approach worked for the jewelry artist, too. She gave the gallery owners the option of picking a new delivery date or getting their deposits back. One picked a date that was 2 weeks beyond what she would have offered. The other gave her 3 extra weeks. This strategy not only bought her more time but let her know which order to concentrate on first and plan a schedule that would allow her to fulfill her obligations for the juried show as well.