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Very Superstitious

(September 2011) posted on Wed Sep 07, 2011

Problems with letting superstitions into the workplace.

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By Craig Miller

My personal superstition was this: Customers would not tolerate a sizable deposit required before we would begin a job, and they expected at least 30 days to pay their bill on approved credit. I truly believed you could only get away with a deposit and COD terms with small and new companies. The “blue chip” companies would be offended by these practices. The bigger and more prestigious the company and its potential for serious work, the greater my fear became. I feared that the Fortune 500s would simply go somewhere else to get the terms they wanted and felt they deserved.

But then came the recession. During the recession, our cash flow was, to put it mildly, less than optimal. For really big projects, we sometimes did have the cash flow to pay our expenses before the customers’ checks hit our bank. So, we had no choice. My partners instituted a new company policy and against my better judgment, I went along. We began requiring 50 percent down, and in some cases, balance on completion. I know many of you might be saying, “What took you so long?” But I felt certain that the big customers we so desperately needed would never walk in the door and our current customer base would walk right out!

Surprisingly, they did not. To my knowledge, we have yet to lose a single customer or job over this stricter policy. Deposits helped us survive the recession and we’ve kept deposits a standing operating process even though we can again live without them. My belief that customers wouldn’t agree to pay large deposits proved to be a superstition that simply did not stand the test of reality.

Laying employee superstition to rest
Just as I am not immune to superstitious thinking, I have witnessed even the smartest and experienced employees following victim to irrational superstitions. At times, we must accept even the most illogical superstitions from our co-workers; however, if you believe that their rationales should be put to the test, you must sometimes insist they try things in a different way.