It’s called the Sundown Rule. I discovered it a few years ago when I was conducting a training session for some Walmart employees at their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. The training session had concluded and the Walmart Training Director and I were about to leave the Walmart headquarters for a quiet dinner to discuss the events of the day. As we were leaving the Training Director’s office, he paused and said, “Just a minute. I need to reply to an email. I don’t want to break the Sundown Rule.”
I watched him return to his computer and take about twenty seconds to click a few computer keys. As soon as he finished, he said, “Okay. We can go now.”
Two things immediately came to mind. First, how could he reply to an email in only twenty seconds? Second, what in the world is the Sundown Rule? During our dinner conversation, he answered both questions.
Regarding the Sundown Rule, it seems that Sam Walton was a stickler for not procrastinating. He lived by the philosophy, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” This was especially true when it came to responding to customers, vendors and employees. He was fond of saying, “People know you care when you follow up quickly with answers to questions and concerns.” Over the years, this came to be known as the Walmart “Sundown Rule”—Strive to answer requests by sundown on the day you receive them. You can be sure that they take this rule seriously. By the way, this rule only applies to requests received during office hours in order to allow employees to spend their time away from the office with family or friends.
So how did my friend answer an email in only twenty seconds? It was easy. He simply typed, “Thank you for your email. I will give it some thoughtful consideration and respond to you tomorrow.” By doing this, he was assuring the sender that he had read the email the same day it was sent and that he intended to reply with a thoughtful response the next day.
I’m perplexed at why so few leaders are not willing to take the time to practice this very simple principle. How many times have you sent an email to someone during business hours and after 24 or 48 hours you still haven’t received a response? How does it make you feel? Now, here’s the more difficult question. How many times has someone sent an email to you during business hours and 24 to 48 hours elapse before you respond? Ouch!
The Sundown Rule is a great way to demonstrate to others that you care. Give it a try. You’ll be amazed at the results!