According to the popular TV show Game of Thrones, "words are wind", which means that words are meaningless. They've got it right your words mean little unless of course you back them up with action.
Backing up your words with action part is where so many people start to have issues. When they say they'll hit a deadline they really mean they'll try hard but it may or may not happen.
Most of the time this failure isn't intentional it just comes down to a lack of systems in their business. If you want to start keeping those promises to clients and hitting those deadlines here are three systems you should have in place.
1. Use a project management system
One of the first ways that consultants miss client deadlines is by trying to remember everything that's going on in their business. Typically this is a hold over from when they were just getting started when they actually could remember the 1 or 2 projects on the go and what needed to be done.
The fact is that once your business gets going you're not going to be able to remember what needs to get done when. I actually use the maxim "If I don't write it down it's not going to happen".
To remember everything you need to invest in a project management system. I use Redbooth, but other good options are Asana or Basecamp. It really doesn't matter what your preference is, just choose one and use it for every project that comes in.
2. Follow up with your customers regularly
A second big way that consultants break their word is by not following up with customers regularly. I generally work on a single project at a time and have at least 1 meeting a week with my customers as we're working on the project.
Even if you end up working on a few projects at once don't get yourself so overloaded that you can't have a brief discussion with your clients at least once a week.
On top of that once a week discussion and any updates you put in your project management system you should be sending your clients an email update (or something in your project management system) at the beginning and end of the week. On Friday tell them what happened in the project this week and what will happen next week. On Monday tell them again what will happen next week.
It may seem like overkill, but if your client has to email and ask you what's going on with the project that means they had no idea where things were at and they were concerned. Don't let them get concerned by keeping them updated.
3. Follow up regularly with your team members
If you've got a team you need to remember that your business is making commitments based on what your team members say. You simply can't make every decision (nor should you) so your project managers, sales people, designers, and developers will confirm deadlines for clients.
That means you need to make sure that your team has the resources they need each week. One of the best ways to do this is a brief team meeting. As the business owner you should be meeting with only the project managers regularly. In the 15 minute meeting ask each project manager what they need from you this week to meet their deadlines.
In turn your project managers should be asking their teams what they need each week to get their jobs done. You should sit in on one of these team meetings each week so that you stay in touch with your team. Be careful not to let the project manager let you run the meeting. Sit back and get a feel for the team and be a real person.
All business owners want to be people of integrity and those times when you don't make good on a promise feels terrible. By putting in place these simple repeatable practices we can help ensure that both ourselves and our team members have the highest chance possible to show clients that when we say we'll do something we'll come through.