Stop ignoring emails!

Brushing emails under the carpet is bad for business, and lack of time is no excuse, says Tony Goodwin…

How many emails have you ignored in the past seven days? 10, 20… 50?

I receive hundreds of emails every week. I also get bombarded through Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, SMS and Twitter. My policy is to reply to all personal emails within 24 hours, without exception.

That’s because it’s not only the courteous thing to do, but also business critical.

Many of us use today’s relentless electronic noise as an excuse to not respond to messages that appear to be of no short-term benefit. The thought process is: “I can ignore that because it’s not going to have any positive impact on me and anyway, I’ve got tons of other messages to deal with.”

I would suggest that’s lazy and bad for business.

It’s not only the courteous thing to do, but also business critical

Let’s deal with the courtesy side of things first. Making an effort to respond is about treating others as you would like to be treated. I remember my time as a rookie ad sales person 30 years ago: receiving no reply was much worse than getting a simple “no”. It’s far better to quickly and politely let people know that you can’t help or aren’t interested than to put up a wall of silence.

Is replying to all personal emails really business critical? Let me put it this way: failing to respond damages your reputation. Do you want others to remember you as the person who didn’t bother?

To motivate people for job interviews I tell them that attitude is king: they could be up against the world’s cleverest, most technically-qualified person, but if they show the highest level of desire, they will get the job. Business is about attitude. You must show hunger. It’s no good expecting everyone to beat a path to your door because you have qualifications and awards. Others have equivalent skills, and if you don’t respond, they will beat you to it, no question.

Failing to respond damages your reputation

By replying to all personal emails in a timely fashion, even if it’s to say thanks but no thanks, you show you are open for business. It says: “I’m interested, I’m engaged, I’m efficient, I care, I’m there to respond to your needs.” Lack of time is no excuse. Each of us has the same amount of time. This is not about time, it’s about priority.

There’s a third benefit to replying to your personal emails. It means your radar is attuned to what’s going on out there. If you’re not facing outwards, open to new opportunities, how can you take good decisions? When you engage with people you are more likely to discover the next big thing for your business. There’s always something round the corner, and to find it you’ve got to communicate.

Lack of time is no excuse. Each of us has the same amount of time. This is not about time, it’s about priority.

So next time you’re tempted to ignore a personal email because you’re up against it, think twice. Replying is not only the right thing to do; it might lead to a win. Staying silent isn’t an option.

Tony Goodwin is founder, group CEO and chairman of Antal International, a global management and recruitment company, and one of the fastest-growing business service organisations in China, Eastern Europe and India. Antal has more than 120 offices in over 30 countries, and celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013.