At Home Column #13 - WHAM, BAM, Thank You Ma’am!

Let me tell you a story. A year ago I met a man at a business networking event that I regularly attended. I was there to promote my business The Dream PA, he was there to promote his office venue in a city centre location. At this lunch meeting everyone round the table gets to talk about their business for 5 minutes, we listen and see if we can spot opportunities to put them in touch with people who need their services. It’s networking – being a connector and people will also use these same principles to assist you (or so you’d hope!)

After this meeting, the man in question pursued me for a further meeting. He was insistent that we should meet as we’d have plenty of business to discuss. We were all in the room to grow our businesses and I try to be a good networker, so as this man thought we’d have lots of ways to work together, I agreed to the meeting.

It’s no secret that I’m a ‘Work At Home Mum’ (WAHM). I made this choice when I set up my business for the sole reason of being able to work from home which meant I could be around for my children, do the school run etc. But being a WAHM brings its own set of challenges, and in this case, it was a challenge to find childcare for the time when this chap wanted to meet up. Working mums will know, unless you are paying a day nursery or childminder to care for your child, you have to rely on the kindness of family or friends (even if you decide to pay them!) So I managed to recruit my mum in to help that day, whilst I went off to my meeting with the promise that I’d be back by 1pm as she had something to do later on.

Toddlers don’t seem to like it when ‘mum’ gets a businesslike outfit on. They usually decide to run at you with Weetabix on their fingers, or cry at the thought of you leaving, want a cuddle then wipe their snotty nose on your shoulder! So I took my suit jacket and top in the car with me, wearing a T shirt to do the drop off. I’d had to pack a bag with a few toys and changes of clothes for my boy, as well as remembering my handbag and everything I needed for the meeting, but due to good planning and anticipation of what I may need, I was able to seamlessly do the drop off and get to the meeting place on time.

I sat, and waited. This guy who had pursued me for this meeting in the first place, so desperate to meet- was 15 minutes late. When it got to 20 minutes I called him to see what was going on. I will usually allow 20 minutes for emergencies then if I’ve not heard anything, leave. Time is too precious to spend wasting it and 20 minutes is usually long enough for anyone to get to a phone and call the person they are due to meet to explain they will be late. He was still on the road but promised to be there in half an hour. I wasn’t expecting to be kept waiting so long, but as he’d been so insistent that we should talk, I had in the back of my mind that there may be some business there for me. Plus I’d already gone to the trouble of arranging childcare, so I went off for a quick look around the shops, planning to return to the meeting place 30 minutes later.

When I got back he had arrived. There was no apology for having kept me waiting so long – he didn’t seem to think it was a problem. He’d also turned up in jeans and a knitted cap- looking very trendy but not very businesslike, and I was expecting a business meeting – not a date. He’d also brought a friend along! So keeping an open mind, we got a coffee and I waited for him to speak. Basically he’d picked up on the fact that I’m a WAHM from the business meeting where we met. As I worked from home and he rented out office space in the city centre, he thought that I’d be a great candidate for his services - he’d got me there to do the hard sell!

I’m not interested in renting office space. If he’d asked me at the time we met, I could have told him then and saved us both a trip out. The point of working from home is that I actually work from home! I could have also saved the ‘favour’ from my mum in looking after my son, for another meeting which would have been more productive for my business. I could have saved the little cry that my son had when I dropped him off. I could have saved the petrol it cost me to drive to the meeting, and I could have saved the precious time I’d wasted on this guy, who was not only late in the first place, but had absolutely nothing of value to offer me! He was a typical example of ‘Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am’ – he wanted to get what he came for and leave, and who cares what I might want.

Secret Shopper...
This isn’t a very good way to do business, but so many people do it. Assume that they know what you might want then ram it down your throat. Mary Portas tackled this very concept in her recent Secret Shopper series – the fact that people selling are ‘hard selling’ and don’t actually ask questions and listen to what their customers might actually need. I’d say to anyone in business, don’t bullishly assume that you know what the other person wants or needs, just ask them and listen to the answer - it might surprise you. But above all, have respect for the other person’s time, and waste it at your peril.

This guy will never get a sale from me, and I’ll never recommend anyone else to him either. I’m polite when we meet, but there is never any warmth there from my side. I have observed that other people feel the same way about him that I do, simply though their body language. The women around him close up like a venus fly trap when he’s around. Legs get crossed, arms folded, they start to inch away from him, and he can’t see it. I think he’s of the opinion that everyone loves him, such is his thick skin!

Unfortunately it’s not just men who can be insensitive to other people’s time. Recently a mum in business who I know asked me if we could chat. She wanted to pick my brains about juggling work and kids and how to market her business. We’d set up a phone call for one evening but events that day meant that I wasn’t going to be able to make the call so I emailed her with an hours’ notice that I couldn’t talk, and my apologies. We re-scheduled for the Sunday morning and she was going to call between 9-11am. I was hoping she’d call early then I could go out for a run, but she didn’t. I waited all morning at home and no call came. I got an email several days later asking if we could re-schedule. She wanted my advice so here it is: If you want to run a business and are calling me for business advice, be more businesslike! Stick to the arrangements that have been made and if they need to be cancelled, then give notice – beforehand! That was the last Sunday morning I will waste –I may be a Jugglista, juggling those balls like they are going out of fashion, but a Jugglista also knows when to set a ball down, and time wasters is that ball.

What experiences have you had of bad business practise? Drop me a comment below.

I write a fortnightly column for At Home - the Premier UK celebrity and lifestyle magazine, and this one appeared on their site a month ago. Do visit At Home and leave me a comment on the post there so they get to see your opinions too!
About the Author
Nadine Hill is a busy working mum (“Is there any other kind?!”) who has a fascination with time management which borders on the obsessive! She loves to find more effective ways of doing the daily juggle whilst enjoying the journey and has lots of practise through raising her two children, managing her small business, being a best-selling author, running her home, public speaking and finding time to get to the gym! Nadine’s ambition is to help busy mums claw back a bit of ‘me time’ so she shares her tips with at home in these fortnightly columns and her own life stories on her blog- Juggle Mum.
She also micro blogs on Twitter where she is @Businessmum. You can learn more about Nadine at

1 comment:

  1. Professor of DenimologyApril 26, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    What an idiot that trendy man must be. I think you should call him and say you've changed your mind about renting his boring office space, then arrange to meet at a completely unsociable time and not turn up. And maybe phone that woman for a business chat at 2am :D

    A couple of years ago my boss arranged a weekend conference that I was expected to attend, but the first I heard about the fact that it had been scheduled was when his secretary emailed me a few days before to ask if I had any special dietary requirements. Then I got withering looks when I said I wouldn't be able to make it, and couldn't put the record straight without blaming the secretary and making myself look like a spineless snitch, so I kept quiet. *Sigh*


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