When my daughter was born I took 6 weeks off of work. Human Resources told me that’s how much time I had accrued and it didn’t occur to me to ask for more time. I also thought that it would be a bad idea to turn my business over to another engineer while I was gone. Why? I was in sales at the time and didn’t think anyone would take care of my business as well as I would. While that was probably true, it was not a good decision. It certainly is one that I would not repeat.
I gave my customers my home phone number and told them I would be working from home. To give you some background on our situation, this was our first child. I was very much like Prissy in Gone with the Wind who said, “I don’t know nothing about birthing babies.” My husband and I probably knew even less. The first day home from the hospital we ate breakfast at 4 pm. That was after washing anything of my daughter’s that touched the floor, got spit on, or wet. That was just about everything. Who knew that dirt was not fatal? In addition to four loads of laundry before noon, I began to get customer calls when my daughter was two days old.
I would be talking to customers, making a recommendation about products or resolving problems, while feeding her in my lap. Once, the phone knocked her in the head. Thank goodness she didn’t cry. I’ll bet that cost her a few IQ points. I have to chalk that one up to the fact that it was six weeks before she –and thus my husband and me—slept more than 3 consecutive hours. What was I thinking? That only I could take care of my customers? That I would be signaling less of a commitment to work if I turned my business over to someone else in my absence? It had to be the sleep deprivation talking.
If I had turned my business over to one of my peers, my customers probably would have gotten slower responses to their questions. As I look back, even if my customers didn’t get immediate answers to their questions, their businesses would not have suffered. If my substitute took his time and didn’t give as complete an answer to a problem, it would not have damaged anyone’s business. Yet, I thought that only the highest level of service would be acceptable and I had to be the one to deliver it.
I would not make that decision today. I realize now that part of good business decision making includes how the delivery of that decision impacts me. If I’m going to sacrifice myself, it had better be for a very good reason. And what could that be? I really can’t think of one. Very few business decisions are life or death ones. So why give your life when you don’t have to? You don’t. There are many times in business when less than perfect is good enough. Just make sure you consider what’s good enough when you have to make your next decision. Perfection is not the goal if good enough will work out just fine.