“Call me anytime.”
“Use my cell, I always have it with me.”
“I’ll be home, give me a call.”
Phrases I hear all the time, but know aren’t true. The phone has become a casual piece of entertainment to most people, but it’s the chief way I communicate with clients. I finally purchased an unlimited minutes cellphone plan, not because I love yakking, but because my cellphone is my business phone.
If you own your business your phone is your marketing system, lifeline, communication tool. If you are like me, at the end of the day, you don’t want to talk anymore. Your ear hurts. But other people have a different view. Many people believe that if you own your business you have lots of free time. So it doesn’t matter when they call.
As a writer, and a developer of writing training programs, I have deadlines. And I need to schedule. Because I am also a life- and creativity coach, I have to set times and guidelines. When someone says, “give me a call anytime tonight,” my reply is never “OK,” my reply is “How about 7?”
Often the answer is “Whenever,” but that won’t do. I have a West Coast conference call at 6:30 p.m. It has a firm beginning and end. At 7:30, I have a coaching call, for a client that doesn’t want to talk at work. So my available time is 7 to 7:30. It’s hard to explain this to people who go to work and come home at regular times, and once they are home they are free to choose their schedule.
“Sure, call me at 7″ they answer, but when I call, they are on the phone. I leave a message and start to prepare for my next call. That means taking care of physical needs (drinking water or putting it back), or standing up and stretching, looking up something, making a note so I won’t forget.
The phone rings and it’s my friend. “Geez, you are so prompt. I was talking to. . .” I look at the clock. Five minutes to the coaching call.
“What’s up?” I interrupt.
“I thought we’d talk about that meeting we’re going to.” I know this is a long talk, involving content planning and who will drive and where we’ll eat.
“I can drive, and you can choose the restaurant,” I say, now at 3 minutes left.
“What do you want to do your presentation on?”
“I thought I’d do it on communicating with people you like and know, but don’t have time for,” I say, thinking this is a topic I’m an expert at.
“OK, so let’s talk.”
“I can’t. I have a call. I can talk tomorrow at 2 or at 5. Which is better?”
“Oh, call me anytime tomorrow. I’ll be home all day.”
When you own your own business, time is a currency that needs to be budgeted and counted. To those who see time as a space to be filled, the geometry of talking doesn’t match with the neatly packed rolls of quarter-hours to be doled out.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She watches the clock, and tries to explain the measurement system to others, often without success. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2008. All rights reserved.