Minimize Your Mistakes

We all make mistakes.  It’s in our human nature to be fallible.  My line is that if I were perfect there’d be no reason for me to be here.  In business, however, mistakes can be costly and may even be fatal for the company.

If you are familiar with the Tylenol case, there are some who believe the problem was perpetrated by an outside influence and the company made no mistake.  There had to be a failure somewhere, however, that enabled the perpetrator to infiltrate the system and contaminate product.  In either case, the incident could have proved fatal for Tylenol had they chosen a different way to respond or not responded at all.  Yes, it was costly to pull all of their potentially-contaminated products from the shelves and re-tool production to include protective seals, but those costs were made back up with the brand regaining its market share because of making the right decision.  The right choices were made … and steps were taken to correct the failure in the system.

You will make mistakes in business.  You can minimize those mistakes, though, with some preventative measures such as this limited list:

1. Internal Communication.  Your corporate mission and the vision you have for your company must be consistently conveyed to your management and employees frequently.  Supervisors should be talking to production people and dealing with issues the line identifies.  Sustaining a positive, supportive attitude within your team is far more productive than standing by and waiting for something to break.  I’ve always believed a pat on the back goes further than a kick in the pants.

2.  Quality Control.  The image your company portrays – through employees and your product’s packaging – creates the perception of your business to consumers.  By controlling that image you can minimize negative perceptions about your products and/or services.  It can be something as innocent as printing direct mail pieces when your printer is running out of ink that conveys the wrong impression.  Keep an eye on your image and encourage your entire team to do the same.

3.  Strategic Plan.  Your corporate mission and the other aspects of having a plan for where you want your business to go serves as the guidebook to avoid mistakes.  Take time to think things through.  Evaluate where you are in accomplishing your strategies on a frequent basis.  Spend time on the tasks that are important to the business for the long term and less time responding to urgent tasks.  It’s the proverbial but true statement about spending more time on the business than in it.

4.  Crisis Management.  An often overlooked element in your business and marketing strategy is a response mechanism for when crises occur.  Thinking through what might happen and devising methods for dealing with each of them can minimize risks, alleviate headaches, and keep your company in business when mistakes happen.  Keep in mind that in certain situations, your best crisis response may be to let the crisis pass without a direct response.  You must still be ready to act, however.

5.  Learn.  To keep from repeating errors that can prove costly, a great piece of advice is to learn from those mistakes you do make.  You are doomed to failure if your company continues to make the same mistakes.  Make sure your legal counsel knows the risks you face and does what he/she can to help you minimize them.  Trust your non-staff team to help you gain from the lessons mistakes teach us.  Stay positive and keep moving forward.  Understand that this, too, will pass.

Detach yourself from the desire to make a rush (and often rash) decision.  Distinguish the true from the false, the facts from the assumptions.  Then choose the right path.