It would be nice if you could do things perfectly all the time, but nobody is perfect. Whether you like it or not, mistakes are a part of every industry–and that’s actually a good thing. Mistakes are how you know that you are pushing yourself and learning new things, and they present an opportunity to improve the way you run your business. So long as you approach them with the correct attitude, mistakes aren’t a problem at all.
We asked our experts to share some of the things they’ve learned from making mistakes over the years, and their advice for how to react when something goes wrong. They had a lot of recommendations to help you keep a positive attitude, fix the problem as efficiently as possible, and make sure that you do better in the future. Here’s some of their best advice.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, doomsday scenarios will immediately start coursing through your head. It’s human instinct to fear for the worst, and when something goes wrong, you might think you’ll never live it down. But as expert Matthew Kettner reminds us,
“Nobody wants to be remembered by the mistakes that they made in business or life. Most people won’t remember the mistake as much as they will remember how you reacted to it and your coarse of action(s) after the fact.”
Everybody makes mistakes, and most clients and coworkers understand this. They are not going to obsess over your mistakes nearly as much as you are. It’s your response that counts.
It is tempting, when you realize you have made a mistake, to hope that nobody will notice if you just don’t say anything. Don’t give in to that temptation! It will only make the mistake worse. Instead, experts Grand View Builders recommend that you
“Address the issue as soon as it is realized: The earlier a problem can be addressed, the easier it will be to resolve. …we always try to address any issue before the situation worsens.”
Ignoring a problem or mistake won’t fix it–instead, your clients are just going to be even more angry when they figure out what happened.
Sometimes, a mistake might not even be your fault, and you’ll think it’s unfair that you’re getting blamed for it. Whether the mistake really was your bad or not, though, clients don’t want to hear a bunch of excuses–they want the problem to be fixed. Expert Kerry Ann Dame has plenty of experience with this:
“Even if the issue is a delay that wasn’t our fault, our relationship with the client is important to us, so we often thank them for their patience with a gift or discount. If one of our tradespeople makes an error that requires more material, we handle it internally so the client never has to deal with the problem.”
Taking responsibility shows your clients that you are committed to them, and not trying to weasel out when things go wrong.
Don’t Repeat Mistakes
Once a mistake has been fixed is when the real learning begins. There’s no point in doing any of the above if you’re just going to repeat the mistake into the future, because then you haven’t learned anything. Repeating mistakes is the only real mistake. Experts 2 Thumbs Up take this idea to the extreme:
“I have about a 4×8 sheet of plywood with all my mistakes listed on it. … It’s nice to refer back to them and reflect on how to either make the system work better or, if not, keep moving forward to correct my attention to the next one. If mistakes aren’t being made … nothing is getting done.”
Mistakes are learning opportunities–don’t flunk the class!
Share Your Experiences
You aren’t the only person who can benefit from your mistakes. Everybody has an apprentice in some form or another, and they’re going to make mistakes, too–but hopefully not the same ones you made. As expert Mark Puglisi reminds us,
“It also is a teaching opportunity if you share the mistake with someone else. Mistakes don’t have to be a negative experience if you turn them around and find the positive in them.”
Passing on your experience so that others don’t have to learn the hard way benefits everybody. That way, everybody can move forward and make new mistakes together!