Last December, the license plates were stolen off my company car in San Diego. As I was in Saint Louis, I requested replacement plates by mail. But the DMV rejected my request because I did not send the original title. This was pretty frustrating because, when I bought the car in 2013, I sent in the original title with a request for transfer to my name. The DMV sent me back a photocopy of the title and then refused to register the car because all I had was a photocopy of the title. It took me a full year to get the car registered. I still haven’t received the title.
When my request was rejected, I knew that I would have to personally go to the DMV to try to get plates.
When I arrived back in San Diego, my imagination started to run. I worried that they would not help me and that I would waste days at the DMV filling out forms. I worried that I would never get the title and could never sell the car. I worried that I would have to take legal action to get the title. I worried that the car would get impounded for not having plates and that I would lose it or have to pay thousands to get it released. I worried that I would go to the DMV and have a frustration meltdown with the clerk and get arrested.
So I avoided it. It took me three weeks to go to the DMV. In the meantime, my staff was driving around without plates. And I was very aware of how dumb and risky that is.
Everyone indulges in avoidance behavior. It happens all the time.
The phone rings and you know it is someone calling about a bill you forgot to pay. You avoid the call because you have no good answer for the person on the other end of the phone. Maybe you ordered some inventory based upon a purchase order and your customer reneged. Now you owe for the inventory and your cash flow doesn’t support paying the bill.
Or maybe you are waiting for a check from your biggest client and, once it comes in, you can pay the bill that’s been sitting on your desk for two months. So you don’t take that phone call because you don’t want to have the difficult conversation.
Here’s another common scenario: You receive a letter from a lawyer or a government agency. You open the letter and it’s bad news. They want something. Usually it’s money. You don’t reply to the letter because you don’t know what to say. Then you ignore all the letters that follow. Or maybe you don’t open any of them at all, and send them straight to the trash can.
This behavior is dangerous.
Because, most of the time, these situations do not resolve through lack of action.
In fact, ignoring phone calls and letters can lead to horrible and unnecessary consequences. Ignoring letters from lawyers and governmental agencies can lead to loss of money, loss of your business, and, in a few rare instances, loss of your freedom. That’s why you need to be proactive in handling difficult conversations related to business activities.
If funds are short, accommodations can almost always be made between parties. If performance is the issue, discussing the barriers will help everyone understand the reality. This is always better than waiting to “see what happens.” If there is some other issue, a conversation at least brings peace of mind.
The thing to remember is: Everyone has been in your shoes.
If you have a difficult time thinking about responding to a notice because you are clearly in the wrong, you must realize everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes can be fixed, but you have to face them. The person on the other end of the phone or the writer of that letter has probably been in the same (or a similar position) in his career.
Don’t let your thoughts carry you away to the worst-case scenario.
The worst-case scenario rarely happens. When I mustered my courage and went to the DMV, for example, the clerk said, “you must be very frustrated,” fixed the problem, and gave me new plates, all within 30 minutes. I suffered from all those anxieties for nothing! I felt both silly and relieved.
And in my many years of practice, I have never had a situation spiral to the “worst-case scenario” once I got involved. When you face things and proactively deal with them, usually the worst-case doesn’t happen.
If you are concerned about the worst possible outcome, call me and we can discuss possible responses.
In many cases, I can teach you what to say and how to say it. Or I can speak for you. I can also help you with a follow-up letter to a business demand that will keep your relationship in tact and offer you relief.
In some cases, (like a letter from a governmental agency) any response you provide can be used against you. Those are times you definitely want me to help out.
No matter what, ignoring the problem will only make it worse.
Always take action to resolve the problem. You will feel relieved when you do!
But before you do, contact me.
We can discuss the situation and create a plan for your response.
This is not just good business advice. It is good advice for your health and emotional well-being.