Look Back! (Issue 729)

In which we are reminded to look back at our client relationships to make sure nothing has changed while we were looking in a different direction.

We were on our way to dinner at a “yes, I’d drive across town for dinner there,” white table cloths and candles Italian restaurant. We were excited about the upcoming meal, hungry from the day’s traveling…and at the mercy of our dueling GPS guides that were recalculating our routes in opposite directions as we left the hotel parking lot and turned right on the access road.

Reaching the stop sign at the end of the access road, we both looked at our phones and the maps they provided. David, my colleague and driver, said, “I think we should go to the right.” He turned the steering wheel a quarter turn to the right and crept forward a few feet.

“No, no!” I replied, glancing up from my phone. “Go left. It’s that way.”

“Really?” David puzzled. He thought for a moment. “OK,” he said.

Looking to his left for oncoming traffic, he shifted into reverse and backed up a couple of feet.

BANG! [That word really doesn’t do it justice. It was more like a quarter-second sharpish metal-on-metal clang/clunk enveloped in a creakish groan.]

“RATS!” [or words to that effect] Dave semi-shouted, suddenly looking in his rear view mirror.

I turned around in my seat and looked directly into the grill of a Ford Super Duty F-450 truck with a snow plow attachment rigged forward.

The truck backed up a bit. Dave and I got out of the car, discovering that there wasn’t even a scratch on the Ford. Turning to look at the rear of Dave’s car, “crumpled” might be a good descriptor.

“I’m sorry,” Dave said, looking at the truck’s driver. “I didn’t see you. I never even looked in the rear view mirror.”

I knew what had happened. There hadn’t been any cars on the access road when we’d turned onto it. And, during the 60 seconds that Dave and I had been sitting at the corner, the truck had pulled in behind us, all unbeknownst. Dave, assuming that nothing had changed and that the road was still car-free, had backed up without looking and was now looking at a significant explanation to someone and a four-figure repair bill.

So, too, with our clients, we thought later. It’s good NOT to assume that nothing has changed in our relationships with our clients. Maybe we need to look back periodically, more frequently, to see what may have changed so that we don’t end up crumpling our rear ends.

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