We can find Another Driver, but we can’t Replace Me

On a recent Sunday morning, David and I, along with a Magnus staff member, were on the way to the Miami airport for a very early flight to the destination where our research project was scheduled the next day. We always try to arrive on site the day before our research projects, due to the necessity of setting up and testing all of our equipment prior to beginning our work. On this particular morning, although the driver from the car service arrived in plenty of time to ensure we arrived at the airport in time to catch our flight, there was a fatal accident on the interstate, which closed all lanes and blocked us from proceeding. We sat on the interstate for what seemed like an eternity as we contemplated what would happen if we missed our flight, not to mention expressing our extreme sadness upon seeing a body bag in the middle of the interstate, which, of course, put matters in perspective in a most solemn manner. Our driver was noticeably frustrated as he contacted the dispatcher at his company to explain he would not be present to pick up his next passengers or maybe the passengers after that, due to the lateness of his airport passengers’ drop off. This led me to think about all of the times when, due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been late to a client’s research project. Unlike our driver, who merely had to call for someone to replace him, there is no one who can replace me on a research day. No one. On the few occasions when my flight has been cancelled, or my rental car has broken down, or other unforeseen circumstances have caused me to be late, my staff has had to “go on with the show” in my absence, but it has never gone over well with our clients. I have gone to great lengths to accommodate my clients over the years, but so far, I have stopped short of commandeering another airplane when my flight is cancelled or hitchhiking on the interstate when my rental car breaks down. It is often said that “everyone is replaceable,” but my experiences have proven otherwise.

The adage “the show must go on” is one for which we can prepare, but the reality is that, without the lead singer, it won’t be the same. Clients pay considerable amounts of money for the presence of our “lead singer.” (Well, actually, Melissa is a bass player who is happy to be in the background, holding down the bottom, if music is involved.) But, to stick with the analogy, Melissa is our lead singer and, rightfully, the clients want her present at research or jury selection. Because of this, at least in my mind, I often think what is our plan B if we (or she) can’t make it to the airport? What happens if a hurricane threatens a research day? What if baggage is lost? What if anything threatens to keep the show from going on? Contingencies must be considered and, in a few instances, contingency plans have been activated. A long time ago, our suitcases containing our business suits got lost the night before an important client meeting – off we went to Stein Mart to buy more clothes. A broken down rental car on the way to the airport – find another car or a taxi. Got a flat tire in New Orleans – limp to the hotel. We’ve said it before – adapt, innovate, overcome and make it to the show. If the limo driver got a bit frustrated that Sunday morning, I hope he knows we were even more concerned than he was. It was to be a relatively short flight to our destination. It would have been a long, 10 to 12 hour, drive. But, figuring that driving was our plan B was running through my head as we sat completely stopped on I-95. We would have made it happen!

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