A deal’s a deal

Even if I haven’t been happy with some deals that have been made, I have always stuck to them. To do otherwise inconveniences plans others have made and ultimately is disrespectful. Following through on commitments is fundamental to developing trust.

A deal’s a deal by Nancy Knowlton

One day after work a number of years ago, Dave and I were talking about our days and deftly he slipped it in that he had sold my car to one of our staff. I thought that it was a joke – we had talked about how very little I drove usually when I received my insurance premium semiannually, but selling my car without first discussing it with me? Surely he joked. Dave quickly went into a deeper justification, and I have to say that it was a compelling case that he made to sell it and I understood the logic behind his actions. But the most compelling argument of all – he had made the deal already and we had to follow through. A deal’s a deal – particularly with a staff member.

Saving energy and money

Very quickly I moved into the mode of making my carless state work. I began walking, I took taxis and when I needed to, I used Dave’s car (so really we weren’t carless, just two-carless). I soon found that it was virtually no inconvenience to be without my own car. In fact, I saved energy on my semiannual lament about insurance costs for a vehicle that I rarely used. I kept careful records the first year and proved unequivocally that using taxis was actually a money saver considering only foregone insurance expenses.

Sticking to commitments

Through the years we have laughed about the sale. It really is funny to contemplate a husband selling a wife’s car without first discussing it. In good sport, friends have marveled at Dave’s bravery while others have thought him reckless and unconcerned for his own safety. The part that isn’t funny and that has never been taken lightly by us is the absolute clarity regarding the need to follow through on commitments to staff and others. A deal’s a deal – even ones that you wish that you hadn’t made.

People make their commitments based on the commitments made to them. Promises broken lead to unforeseen and often unpleasant consequences for others. When those promises involve money or the loss of money, things can become very heated and very emotional very quickly – understandably so.

Considering others

A deal doesn’t have to be in writing to be a deal in someone’s mind – it can be an expectation based on prior behavior. Anticipating misunderstanding and clarifying things early on is not just a way to avoid escalation into a legal realm, it is also good practice, reflective of respectful consideration of others.

At home, teaching children early that a deal is a deal is important. Life is a series of commitments that need to be honored. Living up to those deals, even when not advantageous and convenient, is just the way things work.

At work, delivering on commitments, meeting expectations, being honest and direct, owning up to mistakes and paying to resolve problems are all manifestations of this creed. In the end it’s about aligning action with words. It’s about earning trust and being seen as trustworthy. And it’s not just individuals who need to meet commitments – it’s corporations and all forms of organizations. And the employer/employee relationship is one where trust is table stakes for playing the game.

Want to be an entrepreneur? Believe that a deal’s a deal. Always.

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Nancy Knowlton
Nancy Knowlton is co-founder and CEO of Nureva Inc. and previously the co-founder and CEO of SMART Technologies. She writes about education, entrepreneurship, business management, technology, innovation and other passions.