Honesty is the best policy when it comes to impossible Christmas 'deadlines': Phil Fraser

It has been that time of year again – the point when clients have been asking suppliers to hit very tight pre-Christmas break deadlines that simply aren’t real.

I’ve got my own slightly cheeky acronym for it – FUCD (False Unnecessary Christmas Deadlines).

You know the clients as we all have them.

“Can we have that job completed/delivered before Christmas?”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Phil Fraser has his sayPhil Fraser has his say
Phil Fraser has his say

“Errr Mr/Mrs/Miss Client that work would normally be completed by the usual timeline."

Just to warn you all, this year’s deadline is just a few days away on Friday, December 23.

But jobs that would, on normal timelines, be delivered/completed sometime in January now, for some mysterious festive reason, need to be delivered before the Christmas break. Why?

Yes, Mr/Mrs/Miss Client it would be great to clear the decks before you disappear to enjoy eggnog, over-eating and the relatives, but asking your supplier to jump through hoops is unnecessary, unfair and frankly


Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Just because you want to ease your guilt, doesn’t mean you have to mess up a supplier’s workload and their last week before Christmas.

Many years ago, I was working on a job that supposedly had to be delivered by a certain date, which meant it was terribly rushed.

Unsurprisingly when it was delivered by the rushed date it was full of errors.

The client, whilst disappointed, told us, ‘Don’t worry, you can redo it for next week.’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What - after all that rushing about to deliver by ‘deadline’?

This taught me the very valuable business lesson that the vast majority of client deadlines are simply random dates set by the client to fit their own personal agenda, rather than a true deadline.

Most deadlines are not real.

Yes of course, there are certain ones that jobs have to delivered to, but most deadlines are not real.

So what are the options if a client puts you in this position?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

1) Be honest and tell them you can’t work to that deadline, and that the job will be delivered in the usual timeframe.

2) As they say, sometimes done is better than perfect, and deliver to the bare minimum. But obviously don’t let this become the norm.

3) Jump through hoops, mess up all of your own planning and prove your immense skills as a contortionist and deliver to the ridiculous pre-Christmas deadline that’s been set. Unfortunate hint - the client won’t appreciate it afterwards and will simply set new stupid deadlines in future.

In my opinion, I’d go with Option 1. You’ll be amazed how many clients simply say ‘Ok, no problem’ and accept your normal delivery timeline.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The longer term solution would be to pre-empt this and explain to all of your client base, probably sometime in October or November, what your working hours and delivery/supply times are going to be over the Christmas period.

That way you are training your clients and managing expectations.

And one final thought; if you are a client and are considering asking your supplier unnecessarily and unfairly to deliver something ‘before we break for Christmas’, please think again and ask yourself if it is really needed by then.

Phil Fraser runs The Business Sounding Board, which helps SME Business Owners focus on their role.