Unreliable, That's What You Are Businessmentals

Unreliable, That’s What You Are… (To the Tune of the Old Nat Cole Song)

Mr/Ms. Unreliable.

We all know him/her. The small business owner who has great ideas and who gets us really enthusiastic about what they can do, and the difference it’s going to make to our businesses. We like working with him/her because they think differently to people in large businesses. And we think that because they’re a small business just like us, where every client counts, they’ll deliver first time, on time, every time.

And they don’t. So we chase them with a little prod…not too hard because we’re “making allowances” for the fact that like us, they sometimes have a surge of work and cannot keep up.

And more time goes by. Then we get a hastily written apology note and another definite promise to get it done by nightfall. And nightfall does eventually arrive, but their stuff doesn’t. So… maybe they’re working late and anyway today doesn’t finish until midnight, right?

The sun comes up. As it so often does. And our inbox is full of everything except the one thing we’re waiting for. So, we check our junk mail. Nope. We reboot in case it’s hanging. Nope.

We send a Whatsapp message. “Earth to {insert name here}… Mate, we’re waiting for the stuff. Product launch meeting with the client is later today.” We often include emojis so that he/she knows we’re taking it lightly. Sort of.

Nada. Zip. Nowt. So we call. The phone rings out. Then the internal debate starts. Have we pissed him/her off without realising it? Did our cheque bounce? Still nothing.

Then frustration sets in, and we remember (or think we do) that this happens a lot. And that after the last time it happened, we decided we wouldn’t use him/her anymore. But we did anyway because when we get together they come up with such great ideas.

So we start to look for another supplier, which kind of feels like we’re going behind their back. But actually, we don’t know where their back is currently, so we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

We finally find someone else. We agree terms, timelines and emphasise we want them to deliver on time. They come highly recommended. We don’t know them from a bar of soap. That’s good.

And then what happens? Mr./Ms. Unreliable suddenly appears with a story that makes The Secret Life of Walter Mitty look tame by comparison. And we buy it. Again and again and again.


  • Friends don’t leave their friends hanging out to dry.
  • Friends don’t ignore promises they made so earnestly.
  • Friends don’t waste our two most scarce personal resources (time and sanity).

The Solution? The first time it happens, call them on it and explain the impact it has had. If they get shitty at that point, that tells you something. The second time it happens, tell them it’s the last time – in writing. And when it happens again, which it inevitably will, you stop working with them.


You might be doing them a huge favour.

You’re certainly doing yourself one.

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