Learning from Mistakes


It would be nice if we lived in a world where mistakes never happened. Everybody would be perfect at their jobs, customers would always be satisfied, and projects would always be completed on-time and on budget. Sadly, we don’t live in that world; making mistakes part of the learning process, and everybody has to deal with the consequences. If you approach them with the right attitude, you can turn even the biggest of mistakes into a chance to improve. That’s why we look to our experts for how they handle mishaps–and how aspiring workers can learn from their attitudes.

Why We’re Asking:

Our experts have been working successfully in their respective industries for years and for some, even decades, and it’s easy to look at someone with that much success and think they must never make mistakes. But we all know that isn’t true. Mistakes are part of life and learning, and the mark of a true professional is knowing how to handle them. We want to know what our experts have learned from their blunders over the years, and how they have kept a positive attitude even in the face of the occasional screw-up.

So tell us, experts:

What mistakes have you made and learned from?

Are there any mistakes you see rookies make frequently?
What’s your first reaction when you realize something has gone wrong?
How do you handle a client’s complaint when the fault really is yours?
Have you ever made a mistake that couldn’t be salvaged? How did you handle it?

They say that if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t learning anything new. We’re looking forward to hearing about all the things you’ve learned from your blunders over the years!

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. I certainly have made my share of mistakes, but what you do about them is the key to learning from them. I have always told my kids and employees, making mistakes is how we learn, what I am concerned about is making the same mistakes over and over. 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.

    Most mistakes I’ve made are repairable without too much trouble. Mistakes can be caused my many things such as not following policy and/or procedures, that’s why they are in place. We are all human and mistakes are just part of life. I typically look at a mistake I have made and try and figure out where things went wrong and then figure out what could I have done to avoid this?

    The troubling thing about mistakes is someone has a need to point fingers and plays the blame game. Take responsibility in your actions and you will have greater respect the next time you make one. The fault in making mistakes is not taking ownership of them. We all make and we all will continue making them, so make a point to learn and move on from them and your wisdom will grow.

  2. Grand View Builders opened its door in 2009 and in the last four years, our business has grown and we have had many opportunities to learn. As with any business, especially newer ones, some mistakes have been made and while some mistakes are bigger than others, we believe how you handle each one is more important than the mistake itself. Below are a few of the guidelines we always try to follow at Grand View Builders when we realize a mistake has been made.

    Address the issue as soon as it is realized: The earlier a problem can be addressed, the easier it will be to resolve. We use many channels to connect with our realtors and homeowners (Facebook, Twitter, email, phone…) so we always try to address any issue before the situation worsens.

    Don’t place blame: Not only is this unprofessional, it takes focus away from the actual problem and can be a waste of valuable time. When addressing a problem in a business, you’ll need the facts to address it head on. Excuses and placing blame can overshadow the facts and make it more difficult to come up with a quick and effective solution. Even if a mistake has been made, we always want our clients to view us as the professionals we are.

    Always be honest: When communicating a mistake to a supervisor or client, it is very important to be honest and open from the very beginning. Business relationships with clients rely on trust and it is always better to be honest about the mistake upfront. We always try to have a solution in place before bringing the situation to the client’s attention.

    By following these guidelines, we have been very successful in meeting challenges head-on, learning from the situation and salvaging relationships with clients.

  3. Being in the plumbing and remodeling business as long as we have. I have about a 4×8 sheet of plywood with all my mistakes listed on it. I simply learn from them all. It’s nice to refer back to them and reflect on how to either make the system of 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.

  4. The most valuable lesson I have learned about making mistakes is they are very telling of the tolerance, education and solution culture that guides you business and that of the clients you have the opportunity to work with. In an outdated, unforgiving professional culture it may be more difficult to enjoy the discoveries. In an updated socially aware corporate culture there are opportunities to revisit errors and patterns that don’t support the objective without a lot of the stress involved. When I discover an error there is the moment of worry that I’ll somehow be taken into town square and banished but beyond what worse case scenarios pop into our imagination it’s important to remember what we have – the ability to express concern, ask questions, clarify the chain of events that created the snag and remind your clients how much you value them and are ready to have a dialogue about best practices. When I discovered an error for a launch I delved into the technical resource I relied on to get a clear understanding. If something makes clients want to move on and when appropriate asking final questions on performance and offering final gratitude goes a long way.

  5. Working in an industry that relies on skilled tradespeople, vendors, importers, and also ourselves as designers, there are many opportunities for something to go wrong along the way. We are human, after all, and part of our job is to take the stress out of remodeling and decorating projects for our clients. We take on the responsibility of making sure things go right, and if for some reason there is a problem, we take care of it. 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.
    We always keep in mind one of our interior design caveats: “Things do go wrong, it’s what you do about it that counts.” We try to leave our clients happy, even if we do hit the occasional bump in the road. I would say the one mistake we sometimes make is giving a client too much of our time without billing them for it, because we care about getting the job done right. This can result in our feeling frustrated with the job and client, so we have to be aware of our time and make sure the client never feels as if we don’t want to be there – we do! We love what we do.

  6. Mistakes are how we all learn. Without them we cannot mature in the type of business we do. Mistakes help you learn so much more and just become so much better as a professional.

  7. 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. We are all human and everyone makes mistakes. I know I have made my own share of mistakes. The trick is to embrace them, own up to it and do what you need to do to correct it.

  8. We advertise with a few websites, which all have our service destination/location. One time, we received a call from a different area that we were not serving. This customer claimed that she bought our coupon and she wanted us to come to her place. When we verified all the information, we realized that she was not in our service area. We tried to explain it to the customer, but that caused even more aggravation on both sides. Since we knew that she could rate us online, we were trying to deal with the issue in a smart way–not necessarily the “right” way. We accepted the service, although we knew that we were going to lose money (because it’s a coupon, and it’s too far away from our location). We didn’t want to make a big deal, so we had to bear the consequences. The lesson that we have learned from that mistake is always try to be smart and not right, even if you know that you are 100% right. Make sure to check your profile and to talk with the people that work on your profile, just to avoid misunderstandings & miscommunication.

  9. As a contractor I feel the most common mistake we make is assuming a homeowner understands all the complications that are possible and as a result fail to adjust their expectations. For example, in the roofing industry having to replace some decking is not uncommon, the homeowner who has never had a roof replaced doesn’t know that and should be made aware of that possibility.

    The best practice is to compile a pamphlet that is given to every new customer that is basically a list of every problem that has ever arisen and how the customer and contractor together can prevent that problem from happening on their project.

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