That Was Super AWKWARD! 3 Tips on How Entrepreneurs Can Manage A Tacky Scenario (based on a true story)

We are only half way through the year and I’ve already had some interesting experiences with prospective customers and vendors, as well as met fellow small business owners who have experienced some awkward scenarios. What do you do when you encounter a sticky situation during your entrepreneurial journey? You are in charge; so what’s the best decision to make?

Check out a real scenario below and three tips on how to handle a tacky situation.

“I am a consultant and one of my favorite clients recommended a prospective customer. They connected us via email and provided a glowing referral about my services. I researched the company and the CEO seemed legit. He had an established nonprofit of ten years with major fundraising successes. He seemed to be professional with solid ties to the community, local businesses, and even the mayor. He praised my client’s expertise and expressed interest in knowing more about my services and scheduled an appointment with me via his assistant. He was copied on all correspondence. Strangely enough, a week and a ½ later after the appointment was set, I arrived to the meeting, only to enter a twilight zone.
I arrived to the headquarters 20 minutes early and attempted to check-in, but the office lobby was crowded with the nonprofit’s clients entering in and out, as they were trying to be serviced. An employee stopped me and asked if they could help. When I told them about my 10:00 AM meeting they laughed and said the CEO was usually not there that early, however I could sit and wait (was this an omen of what was to come?). Twenty minutes later, a man rushed into the office. Based on the online photo and video I saw, he looked like the CEO that I was scheduled to meet. I waited a few minutes to allow him to settle into the office and then I spoke with another lady who appeared to be the receptionist. She made a call and noted that his assistant would come down to pick me up.
Ten minutes passed and no one came down so I called the assistant on my cell phone and she said she was on her way. When she came down she took me to a quiet conference room and said that the CEO had an emergency and that she could have the meeting with me. While she acted professionally, she was also bizarre and almost confused as to why I was there, although she scheduled the appointment and had a history of the introduction with the CEO and me. She treated me as if I was a random vendor who walked off the street. After a few minutes into our conversation, I decided this was a waste of time and left with the feeling that the CEO had no emergency. When I returned to my office, the assistant sent a message, copying the CEO, trying to schedule a call (for what, I asked myself?), but I politely declined.
A minute later my phone rang and it was the nonprofit. I naively assumed it was the CEO calling to apologize that they bailed out on our meeting. Instead it was a confused assistant asking for more details on who referred me (can you believe it?). Instead of looking at her email, she foolishly called me, worried that a board member may have recommended me. With disgust I politely told her it was the CEO’s business contact, my client, who had referred me and to simply read her email, and then I ended the conversation. 

I have never experienced such a strange and unprofessional business encounter. I fault both the CEO and assistant for being incompetent. Beyond not valuing my time, competent professionals would never schedule an appointment and forget about it, and if by chance it happened they would apologize profusely. I refrained from telling my client, but hope to learn from this experience.”

Below are 3 tips inspired by this super awkward business situation.

1. Let the conversation of a bad business connection happen naturally.
In anger you could contact a client or vendor and share your awkward experience, but what good will it do? The business world is so small, it is never wise to vent or gossip about a bad business experience, especially when you are in a funky mood. Nonetheless, if your client or vendor directly asks you about how things worked out, definitely be honest and share what happened. What you don’t want to do is discourage them from sending additional referrals.

2. Create a policy for no-shows so that prospective clients and existing clients value your time.
Don’t let someone’s resume, Harvard MBA, or cool online profile stop you from holding them to the same standards as every other prospective or current client. No matter the customer, always outline clear expectations on what a meeting with you involves. If they don’t show without cancelling, they should be charged a fee or the deposit for the appointment should be retained. As Marie Forleo recently stated in a video blog post, “At the end of the day, if you want people to value your time, you need to put a value on it.”

3. Follow your intuition in business. If something feels weird, it probably is weird.
Trust your instincts. When the entrepreneur in this story sensed the assistant was not being honest, they were smart to leave. Moreover, they could have even left when they began to sense that this well-known organization was extremely unprofessional. As small business owners, sometimes you have to follow your heart. People will only do what you allow. The beauty is that you know early on that an individual or organization might not be a good match; thus, don’t waste your time.

These suggestions could be applied to other business situations as well. What tips would you add to the list? Leave a comment below or tweet them to me @bestrategicPR. #BeStrategic #awkward #scenario

Wishing you all the best, Business Rock Stars!

Be strategic!

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