Don’t Be Flaky—Here’s How to Be Someone People Can Count On

UPDATED: October 13, 2015
PUBLISHED: June 4, 2015

Flakiness is not a good quality in anyone, and it’s especially damaging if you’re an entrepreneur.

When you own your own business, the buck stops with you, so it’s imperative to be reliable at all times. If you forget or otherwise fail to do something critical, no one is going to step in and seamlessly fill in. Many promising businesses go under simply because work falls through the cracks, and their founders can’t be trusted to deliver against their word.

If you are aiming to improve one thing for the remainder of the year, how about working on your personal reliability? Challenge yourself to be the person who people can always count on. Here are six ways to do that:

1. Think before you promise.

You want to help, so when someone asks you for something, your immediate reaction is, “Yes, of course!” But there are only so many hours in the day, and if you say yes too much, you won’t have time for the important things.

The next time you’re pinged, take a step back and objectively consider whether you have bandwidth to make good on the promise. Saying no now is far better than breaking your word later.

2. Don’t overbook yourself.

To the point above, entrepreneurs and small-business owners are usually pressed for time.

Don’t make things worse by scheduling multiple meetings on top of each other—especially if they are in different locations! You are just asking to get stuck in traffic, at the airport or even on the phone, leaving others hanging.

3. Plan for deadlines.

Most people don’t miss deadlines on purpose. They miss them because the task takes longer than they expected and they run out of time.

Avoid this problem by plotting exactly what you’ll accomplish on a given project every week. You’ll be able to see well in advance if you’re running behind schedule and can make adjustments accordingly.

4. Ask for help.

Many entrepreneurs get into jams because they think they are superheroes and can do everything themselves. They don’t routinely delegate and they can’t admit when they’re under water.

Realize that calling on extra resources so that you don’t have to sacrifice your reliability is a sign of maturity, not weakness.

5. Invest in the right technology.

Investing in technology products and solutions can simplify your life more than you think. If you know the technology rage that comes when your computer, smartphone and Wi-Fi all decide not to cooperate, you’ll better appreciate when technology helps you work faster and smarter.

The three pieces of technology essential to an efficient home office include a slender laptop with unlimited cloud storage, an external hard drive to ensure all of your files remain intact, and a high-speed and cost-effective printer, like a Canon MAXIFY. You won’t realize how much you need a good printer until you don’t have one.

6. Be honest about foibles.

No matter how hard you try, there are going to be times when you just can’t come through. Instead of trying to sweep a lapse under the rug or pretend a deadline never existed, own up. Sincerely apologize and rectify the situation as best you can. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, people will understand.

Best of luck enhancing your reliability this year—believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Get advice from 9 successful entrepreneurs themselves.

Alexandra Levit is a workplace author, speaker, columnist and consultant.