As a business owner, one of my major responsibilities is to continuously examine ways to keep costs down and increase revenue so that my company realizes a reasonable profit. During one self-assessment period, revenue had decreased while costs had increased. Needless to say, if that continued, sustainability of the business was in jeopardy. Upon review of the costs, it appeared there was one major cost center that could be reduced and provide the latitude needed to sustain the business while directing attention to increasing revenues. As a result, the decision was made to relocate the business and subsequently reduce overhead costs significantly.
In order to accomplish this, I pulled out my existing lease and reviewed the renewal terms. It clearly stated that the lessor needed to be notified 120 days before the beginning of the next lease period or the lease would be renewed automatically. I immediately counted three months from the date and marked my calendar to submit my letter at least 2 weeks before that date. Plans were then made to relocate.
One month prior to moving, a letter was received from the lessor stating that my lease had been renewed for another year. “That can’t be correct,” I thought. Someone has made a mistake. When I followed up, the office informed me that ‘my notification letter was late.’ How could that be? I had marked my calendar and sent it two weeks earlier. The contract manager indicated to me the date, which marked 120 days and it was not the date that I had on my calendar. After the call, I pulled out the lease, reviewed it again, looked at my date and the date the lessor was indicating it should be, and then realized that it was indeed an error. The error was on me, in that I had marked 3 months (90 days) instead of 4 months (120 days). And even though I had submitted it earlier than the due date, it was still late.
I called the sales agent who had originally worked with me on the lease and was told that the contract always stands. But I could advertise my space and see if I could get someone to lease it. He would work with me to do the same. Unfortunately, no one was interested. The window of time was narrowing, my move plans were in motion, and the contract manager was saying there was no option other than for me to continue my lease or discuss it with the owner. Then appealing my case to the owner was my only option and an appointment was made.
I was nervous about the meeting because after all the years of leasing from his company, the owner and I had never met. Consequently, unlike the sales agent, he had no idea of who I was and similarly I didn’t know him. When the door of the conference room opened, the owner entered with my file in hand. He was all business , methodically went through the facts, and then asked me “what was this meeting about?” I then explained the situation at hand: the current state of my business, self-assessment process, my decision, my review of the lease, submission of my notification letter, and my actions to secure a tenant. I affirmed that my letter was late and that I had made the mistake of counting three months instead of four. “And so what are you asking of me?” he queried. To which I replied, “to let me out of my lease.” He laughed and said “I thought that was what you wanted.” He then went on to say that he could count the number of times of his hand that such a request had been honored. But he looked me in the eye and said that it was also the first time he had come to such a meeting and the tenant was not screaming at him, making demands even when it was their fault, and not acknowledging their mistake. While I don’t know you, what you did today speaks to your character. I will get with the sales agent and contract manager and get back with you. For now, “don’t worry just stay focused on growing your business.” I left with hope that my request would be honored.
Then months passed and each month a new bill arrived with late fees adding up. I would forward the bill to him with a cover note that I was awaiting his response to my request. Then finally, the long awaited response.
I apologize that it has taken so long to get back to you since our last meeting.
I wanted to relay to you that in the 50 year history of this company, the number of leases that we have terminated could be counted on one hand. That said, I also wanted you to know that during our meeting, I was so very impressed with how you were handling your setbacks in such a professional and straightforward manner that I felt that your request was certainly worthy of consideration. To that end, I have asked our office to wipe your account clean and to terminate further obligations.
I wish you nothing but the best.
Please remember us when you are rich and famous, as there is no doubt in my mind that success will be yours.
Needless to say I was overjoyed and relieved. The lesson taught many years ago by my mother to “always tell the truth no matter what the outcome might be” was indeed a valuable lesson.