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Are You Reliable? Let’s Find Out

Overall reliability is a simple, but accurate indicator of how well (or badly) managed a business is.

Sustainable reliability

Everyone knows what it means to be reliable, right? Wrong.

For last 12 years I’ve been asking participants of my business courses, what makes someone reliable. The fast, intuitive answer always tends to be keeping one’s word and honoring agreements. But this is only half-true, because your clients definitely rely on you doing so much more than just keeping promises.

They expect a professional, or any other solid business, to be honest, discreet, flexible, diligent, without serious conflicts of interests, law-abiding, communicative and so on. They rely on all this automatically, at least with solid businesses.

So there are two levels of reliability:

  1. the explicit level, which we’re all aware of and which lies in keeping one’s given word or honoring agreements, and
  2. the implicit level, which lies in fulfilling that which is expected of a true professional or solid business.

Failing to meet what was promised or what was expected of you as a given sends a strong signal to the client. It functions as a composite indicator that you don’t manage yourself or your business well, and simply can’t be fully trusted.

I won’t go into details here about how to boost one’s levels of reliability. I would rather present you with a simple scale for self-evaluation that I give to new clients before starting to work on their processes.

Where do you think you rank on the following scale from 1 to 5:

  1. absolute reliability on both the explicit (promised) and implicit (expected) levels
  2. full explicit reliability with minor deficiencies in implicit expectations
  3. rare failures in explicit reliability under intense pressure (during the peak season, etc.)
  4. minor failures in explicit or implicit reliability, but only in tasks of lesser importance
  5. regular failures in explicit and implicit reliability in tasks of small and great importance

Long-term reliability is the best indicator of how well you manage your business, whether you are its master, or whether it bosses you around.

Anything below the level 3 on the scale therefore means that you have a serious problem — clients are likely to stop recommending you and won’t be willing to pay higher than average, if they are not already angry enough to be looking for a replacement (level 5).

And let me just hint, that according to my experience most professionals and businesses rank themselves a level higher than where they actually belong, from the perspective of their clients. I usually ask both the entrepreneurs and their clients and rarely are the two grades the same. Where businesses tend to think they’re reliable enough, clients agree it’s not enough. Think about it.

Robert Vlach, February 25, 2019

Business consultant, writer and EUpreneur. Proud founder of Procesoid and Na volne noze — one of the largest national freelance communities in Europe

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