BIZ BITS: Beware the Aggressively Lost

Miller & Martin PLLC Blog | February 14, 2019

My daughter is learning to drive. She’s doing great. Seriously. This morning on the way to church, she encountered a driver who was “Aggressively Lost.” We were at an intersection with two left-turn lanes, we were in the rightmost of those lanes, stopped at the light. Another driver pulled beside us in the leftmost turn lane. As the green arrow appeared, he lurched off the line and proceeded to pull in front of us, into the lane we occupied. The next intersection was 900 feet ahead, and he pulled over yet another lane and made a right turn, immediately putting on his brakes, unsure of his route. His tags were not from around here. 

This was all notable because it was 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The street was deserted, even Peachtree Street in Atlanta. This driver, unsure of his route, could have changed lanes behind us. Then he would have merely been “lost” and no one would have noticed. “Lost” was not enough, however, as it was apparently important to him that he be in first place in being lost. We drove on by and made it safely to church without incident. I don’t know what happened to him.

As a parent, I was briefly angry about the other driver’s insistence on being in front of us instead of behind.  That quickly gave way, however, to being proud of the way that my daughter calmly let him have his road, and maintained focus on her car and the things she could control. Good job.

As business owners, we sometimes encounter the Aggressively Lost. They charge headfirst into the unknown, intent on being first, and endangering others who actually do know where they are going. It is incumbent on us to remain calm and maintain our focus on the things we can control.

One of my clients encountered two Aggressively Lost vendors recently. In need of a highly specialized part for a customer, they connected with a supplier with whom they had not dealt before. The supplier led them to believe that they had the part and could meet the two week delivery window – time was of the essence. In reality, the supplier did not have the part, and had commissioned to have it made. It arrived two months late and had been manufactured incorrectly. The part was rejected by the ultimate customer.  That was months ago and thus far the supplier has not refunded my client’s advance payments. In preparing for the impending lawsuit, we discovered that this supplier, under a different name, has been sued for the exact same thing before, with the exact same part.

Just a few weeks later, the same client found another new supplier for a different part. This time, they paid a deposit for the supplier to order the part from the manufacturer. After weeks with no communication, the client contacted the manufacturer and was informed that the supplier had filed for bankruptcy protection. The supplier had been teetering on the edge and had accepted my client’s money but not submitted the deposit to the manufacturer.

In each case, my client encountered another operator on the road who engaged in risky and aggressive behavior. They acted first, jumping ahead of my client’s interests, without a plan for accomplishing whatever they were being hired to do.

Be on the lookout for such operators. Here are some tips that won’t cost anything except a little bit of time:

  1. Check out new business relationships to verify that they are interested in fulfilling your business deal and not just in getting our money. 
  2. Take a few minutes to “Google” the business and its principals. Maybe someone else has had an experience that shared, and from which you can learn.
  3. Ask anyone in your industry who has had experience with them about their satisfaction.
  4. Check for Better Business Bureau reports, positive or negative.

Of course, there are more in-depth and exhaustive investigations and several reputable companies who perform such searches. That is probably a topic for a future piece.

Above all, remain calm, and maintain your focus on the things you can control before you trust an unknown entity with the health of your business, or that of your clients.

Tags: Business Risk, Vendor Relations, Contract Disputes, Failure To Deliver, New Business Relationships

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