Whether you’re in business for yourself, or you work for someone else, making mistakes is part of the journey. And while none of us want to screw up, sometimes it happens. This blog post is a personal story about key lessons learned and insights from my personal mistakes.
Since day one of starting Confluence Business Solutions, I fully appreciated the privilege and responsibility I hold in other people’s businesses. There is a high level of intimacy and trust between our clients and the work we do.
They trust us with their passwords, their strategy and in many cases their future profitability. As a result, as the business grew to include multiple team members, this was a part of our core values that I paid particular attention to in training and onboarding. It is also worth mentioning that the work we do is complicated and the moving parts have an interconnectivity that is overwhelming to most. While my mind is excellent at this, sometimes I forget others’ are not.
The Missing Connection:
A Lesson in Business Responsibility
At the same time as our team was growing, we had a client who was launching a new offering. Her vision involved many moving parts that depended on each other. And, her goal to run the entire campaign had a tight deadline. Moving quickly, we developed the strategy and built it for her. The terrible thing was there was one crucial missing connection between two steps and in the blink of an eye it was over. The entire launch was a bust. Looking back afterwards, visualizing the entire process on screen, the missing connection was glaringly obvious.
The mistake was devastating for us, and our client. One of my biggest fears had been realized. I felt responsible for her failed launch. Whether I blame the team member doing the work, or our systems for not catching the mistake with enough time to fix it, as the business owner, I was ultimately responsible.
My response for the client was immediate. We worked together quickly to strategize a counter solution. I owned the mistake with the client, refunded her the time and revenue spent on this launch and prepared to be fired.
While the client was disappointed with what had occurred, she demonstrated such a high level of grace and understanding. And to this day, she is still a loyal client of ours.
When I look back on this experience, I still squirm in discomfort. And to be honest, it’s uncomfortable just writing and sharing it here publicly. However, it’s important to share these things. Why? Because it happens! And if you enter into business thinking you’re never going to make a mistake, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
There were a few key things that made this experience a little less terrible, so let’s talk about them.
Key Lessons Learned
- Core Values – the values that you and your business live and die by. For me, it has been an essential core value to always be learning and to own my mistakes. I will never pass the blame to someone else, or simply skirt responsibility. My honesty and integrity not only allowed me to open the doors for business the following day, it kept that client for years afterwards.
- Systems & Processes – prior to this mistake happening, we had developed processes to help us track client activities. Not only do these help us in identifying what’s happening when, but also how work gets done and by whom. In this case, they were not followed and it was clear to our team right away what went wrong and how to fix it.
- Learn from the Mistakes – after the fact, there was debriefing and a lot of discussion around how the mistake occurred, the impact on the client and the impact on the trust of our team. By creating a safe place to talk about the mistakes, we were able to create a future path to prevent these issues from happening again in the future.
Insights From My Personal Mistakes
Company culture dictates things like how learning and mistakes are handled. For business owners coming from a corporate culture, perhaps this mindset of always be learning feels unfamiliar or maybe even reckless. But the reality is that as we grow and innovate we are bound to confront opportunities that are new and unfamiliar. Whether that’s growing a team, taking on a new type of work, etc. It’s up to you to decide how you will embrace learning and learning from mistakes?
I challenge you to think about these questions as it relates to mistakes in your own business:
- How comfortable am I with mistakes in my business?
- How will I handle mistakes I and/or my team members make?
- How will I handle client mistakes myself or my team members make?
- What are my core company values as it relates to learning and risk taking?
- What processes or systems do I have in place to reduce unnecessary mistakes?
Lastly, because mistakes are going to happen, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- If you think you’re not going to have mistakes in business, think again!
- Identify potential problem areas where mistakes may happen ahead of time and have a plan for how to address them.
- Create space for discussion and learning.
- Don’t take it personally. YOU ARE NOT YOUR MISTAKE!
- Be willing to learn and move on.
- Build an environment where accomplishments are celebrated.
The journey of running a business or being part of a team is filled with ups and downs, and making mistakes is an inevitable part of the process. Embracing these experiences and learning from them is crucial for growth and development. By fostering a culture that values empathy, open communication, and a commitment to learning, you create an environment where individuals can bounce back from mistakes and emerge stronger.
As you navigate the challenges of business, remember that acknowledging and owning mistakes, investing in robust systems and processes, and staying true to your core values will not only help you overcome obstacles but also strengthen your relationships with clients and team members. So, take a moment to reflect on your approach to mistakes and learning, and empower yourself to turn setbacks into opportunities for growth and success.