To build a good reputation, work hard, be conscientious, considerate and meet all of your deadlines.
"Those are all great things and what you should be striving to do," says former Green Beret Sergeant Major (retired) Karl Erickson. "But on the downside, they all take time to prove to your co-workers and customers."
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Erickson says he believes there is one thing you can do that screams, “This is a person I want to work with” to any of the hundreds of people you come in contact with on a daily or weekly basis. It is a tactic many great leaders employ. It’s simple, it’s free and it is effective: Be on time.
"Don’t show up five minutes late. Don’t show up 15 minutes early. Show up on time," he says.
Like many of the tactics he's shared in columns for Entrepreneur (find them all here), he learned this simple lesson in the military:
"As a Special Forces operator, it really hit home when I was getting off a helicopter and was walking through the hanger with a pilot. He was a pilot with the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment). They are the ones who fly the black helicopters you know from the Bin Laden raid. They are the most famous and respected helicopter unit on the planet. Now up on the wall of the hangar in big letters was written 'Plus/Minus 30 seconds or Not at All.' So I said, 'You guys are on time, got it.' The pilot stopped me and grabbed me by the arm and said, 'No, it’s more important than that. I need you to really understand how important this is to us. I need you operators on the ground to know that if you are in the middle of a gunfight and if we told you that we were going to pick you up at a certain spot two minutes after midnight, we will be there two minutes after midnight. So if bullets are flying all around you and your radio is not working, you can be confident that you can literally run out into the opening and within a window of 30 seconds, a helicopter will be there to get you the hell out.”
The pilot proved how serious he took this on a training mission that Erickson flew on a few months later. "We were on a five hour helicopter ride into the Nevada desert in the middle of the night. There were weather issues, we were weaving in and out, they couldn’t land where I wanted them to land, but finally when we stepped off, I checked my watch, they were less than 60 seconds off their mark. And they were only ‘late’ because of me.”
That’s what separates the 160th from any other helicopter unit in the world, Erickson says. It’s not that they carry more guns or anything -- it’s that they are that reliable.
And that, he says, is what is going to put you ahead of other people.
The downside of being late is easy to understand, but the problem with being early? "Think about it, if you show up to a dinner party or a meeting early, you annoy people or seem overly anxious," he says. "In the business world, it also shows that you have time to waste just sitting around waiting. None of that is good."
"Think about a plumber or electrician," Erickson continues. "You have something that you need to be fixed in your home, there are dozens of people in the phone book. But finding one that is reliable and always shows up when he says he will? That’s the pink unicorn right there. You find that guy and you never let him go. You always call that guy. And likewise, if you develop that reputation in your field, customers and partners will make you their go-to person too."