Six business lessons to take away from the Commonwealth Games fiasco

In brief: it's a disaster. It's a disaster on a spectacular scale. But mini-disasters happen all the time in business - more so if you don't know how to avoid them. So we've pulled out the business lessons you can learn from Delhi, to help you avoid as many mistakes as possible and ward off an even bigger catastrophe like this one.

1. Meet your deadlines

If the Indian government can't get away with it, you certainly can't. If you're trying to impress (which you always should be), you need to be on time. In fact, you should aim to finish a piece of work for a customer before deadline - that will really knock their socks off.

Good time-keeping and project management is an art, though, and one that's not easily mastered. Break work down into the smallest component steps you can so you know precisely when each bit needs to be finished to make the final deadline possible. Leave a small buffer zone for each of those component steps - even the ones you think will never go wrong in a million years (the highly reliable law of sod decrees that they will be the first things to go wrong). Then get on with it. Prioritise ruthlessly, procrastinate never, work every last hour you need to get things done, and keep your customer updated throughout the process to reassure them. And...

2. Be honest if your deadlines slip

Be honest with your customer early on if something's taking forever. Don't leave nasty surprises to happen until the last minute like Delhi has, as urgency amplifies anger and shock-factor.

This doesn't mean going running to your customers as soon as something small slips - you don't want to seem out of control. But when you realise the final deadline is a total no-go, take a deep breath and be honest about it immediately.

3. Speak your customers' language

The Delhi police force were given English lessons so they could help tourists. Unfortunately, the three-day course wasn't all that effective, and the police-people were really none the wiser. The idea is a good one though - you need to talk to customers on their level, without jargon they won't understand and in a manner they find comfortable. If you have regular customers who speak a different language to you, learning some basic phrases in their mother tongue will really endear you to them. Just make sure you do the research and hard work to pull off the idea.

4. Follow health and safety!

We're not quite sure where to begin with the health and safety oversight funfair that is this year's Commonwealth Games, but the collapsed footbridge and flooded athletes' village are probably the most thrillingly dangerous misdemeanours.

Yes, health and safety is pretty tedious. But, wow - if something goes wrong on your watch because you couldn't be bothered with the regulation, you will be sorry. Most H&S is actually just plain common sense (rumours that standing on a chair is now illegal are flagrant exaggeration). And it's common sense that will stop you getting sued or feeling guilty forevermore that you're the reason that customer fell over. Our health and safety advice section makes it nice and quick and easy for you. So no excuses.

5. Do your cashflow carefully

To add a bit more insult to injury (possibly soon-to-be injuries, plural), this Commonwealth Games has become the most expensive in history. The BBC reports 'estimates ranging from $3bn (£1.9bn) to more than $10bn (£6.3bn)' in total. Ouch.

Lest we need to tell you again, cashflow is the make or break of a business. It doesn't matter how many orders for however many millions you have lined up - if you don't have the £200 in the bank you need to start working on them, you're scuppered.

Always expect to be paid late for everything - particularly during times like these. Arrange a decent overdraft facility early, long before you need it, and reserve it for emergencies. Could you survive for the next couple of months without any money coming in? If not, start finding ways to regain positive cashflow, fast. Check out our advice on money management for help.

6. Offer compensation for your errors

Now, I may stand corrected here, but I haven't heard any news about the Indian government offering compensation or alternative accommodation to the sporting teams it's disrupted. Maybe that's just the British press being selective in their reporting - or maybe it's just another mistake to add to this staggering heap of chaos.

It should have been the first thing that happened. If something goes wrong and it's your fault, you need to first offer a full refund, then offer something wonderful for free by way of apology. Overcompensate for errors. It's the undisputed champion of ways to get the people back on side.



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