I want to share with you a life/business lesson that I learned from a manager when I was 19 years old. It was from my days working for a paint shop on my college breaks trying to save enough money to get by for the semester. During this time, I had just started taking my core major classes for my business management and entrepreneurship majors. I was learning about business finance, accounting, marketing, and communications, etc… When I would come home for college breaks, I always had a job at the paint shop and my manager would always allow me to apply the teachings I had learned at college to his store.
Now, I remember this one particular summer, I had just learned about payment terms and how you can change the interest, terms and payment amount to try and get money upfront or within 30 days instead of having that money go to collections. One of the biggest issue facing small franchises in the paint industry (I found out) was that contractors would never pay their bills. Obviously, this is nothing different in any other industry; who likes paying bills?
Continuing on, I was speaking to my manager and I was recommending that we implement a new financing strategy that I had learned. See below.
- 1% 40 Days, Net 50
- 2% 30 Days, Net 50
- 3% 10 Days, Net 30
- 5% 5 Days, Net 30
The idea was simple, give our contractors the option to pay earlier and they would receive a discount if they paid in full. On paper, it sounded perfect. The contractors would receive a discount and we would have our money sooner (cash is king).
Upon promoting my “genius” idea to my manager, he looked at me and laughed. First he said, “Marc, I applaud you on trying something different for this business, but I’ve tried that before.” I responded with, okay well maybe we can try it again and see if we can gain some traction. “Marc, what happens when contractors don’t even understand discounts or payment terms? What happens when they don’t pay the money from collections? What happens when they just leave, never come back, change business names? What happens when you multiply that by 10-20-40 contractors?”
Baffled, confused and befuddled, I responded, “I don’t know” and that was it. He walked up to me and said, what kind of business leader says, “I don’t know”, what kind of owner says, “I don’t know”?
From that day on, I have learned to always pick my words carefully, but more importantly, prepare every angle before pitching any idea of any sort. When I moved into the real corporate world with my degree, I can recall so many times when speaking to my new manager or some high level director, and they would ask me a question that would catch me off-guard. So many times, I would think, “I don’t know”, I would smile a bit and then deliver my prepared response.
As I continued through the business world and sat through countless meetings, I would have to endure people responding, “I don’t know” to me and it would make me furious, just like it did to my old manager. “That’s the best you have? I don’t know? You knew about this meeting and you know the topic and yet your response is I don’t know?”
What does this all have to do with job searching and interviewing? Simple… preparation! “I don’t know” is not an answer and should never be used. There is a simple solution instead, let me help you with this preparation so you can knock it out of the park!
One last thought, when in doubt, when you nothing else to turn too, instead of saying I don’t know, say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information available right now. Let me get back to you.”