“A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. Otherwise it is a lesson.”
Individuals make mistakes – and so do businesses. Even large, so-called professionally-run organizations have made some massive errors that caused chaos, damaged reputations, and in some cases, even led to obsolescence.
Kodak had been at the forefront of film-based photography for almost a century. In 1975, a Kodak engineer invented the world’s first digital camera. Although the company did file a patent in 1977, leadership’s overall attitude to the invention was: “That’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it.” This half-hearted approach to a potentially disruptive new technology proved to be a costly mistake. By 2012, Kodak was bankrupt.
Not all mistakes are so egregious. But there are some common mistakes that too many companies still make. For some, mistakes are learning opportunities. For others, mistakes are a death knell. Here are 3 such mistakes.
#1: Not Getting the Fundamentals Right
Before launching a new product, do you do enough market research to determine if there is a demand for your new offering? Do you have a solid business plan? Is it a “living document”, or is it something you create at the start of the year and then ignore until next year? Do you keep accurate accounting records? How about performing due diligence on your vendors? Ignoring these fundamentals can lead to business disruptions, lost customers, financial losses, and sometimes, obsolescence.
Don’t be the organization that ignores, forgets, or postpones these basic, yet important issues. Accounting errors may result in the company’s insolvency, and even bankruptcy. If you don’t want to join the dubious club that includes high-profile examples like Lehmann Brothers, Enron, and Tyco – keep accurate accounting records!
If you don’t manage your vendor network, it’s only a matter of time before a supply chain attack on one of them could bring your entire IT network crashing down. In December 2020, a cybersecurity attack on SolarWinds Orion software brought down hundreds of organizations worldwide. To avoid this fate, vendor and third-party management should be a fundamental aspect of your business operations.
And last but not least, always do your market research, and regularly update your business plan.
#2: Ignoring Customers
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart once said, “There is only one boss. The customer.” Your company runs because of its customers. As long as they buy your products or services, you will remain in business. It simply underscores the importance of customer experience management.
You can’t afford to forget that customer needs and demands change. This is especially true in the post-COVID world. But are you paying attention to your customers? Or are you ignoring their suggestions, feedback, and complaints? Do you have an AI-powered customer service in place? Today’s customers are digitally savvy, well-connected, and very vocal. One bad review or scathing post on social media can affect your reputation, sales, and profits. Customer voices are powerful, and if they speak out against you, not only will you lose repeat business, you will also lose potential business from future customers.
To avoid such potentially deadly mistakes, focus on delivering excellent customer service and meaningful customer experience. Respond to complaints immediately, quickly answer queries, and offer low-friction ways for customers to contact your company. Develop loyalty programs for existing customers, and entice new customers with special offers, deals, and discounts. Most importantly, if customers have something to say – good or bad – LISTEN!
#3: Hiring the Wrong Employees
If customers are the engine that keeps your company going, your employees are the fuel. Without the right team – and this includes top leadership, functional/business heads, line managers, floor employees, and third parties, including your offshore call center – you cannot run your business, much less take it to the next level of expansion and growth. Remember the short-sighted leadership team of Kodak!
Skilled, competent, and passionate employees are critical to everything from operations, market presence, and financial progress, to innovation, cybersecurity, and compliance. In 2017, Equifax, a U.S. credit reporting agency was the victim of a massive data breach. The incident – which exposed the personal data of 146 million Americans – happened due to a mistake caused by a single IT employee.
Make sure you recruit the right people. Invest in your HR function, and bring in technology and automation to help improve talent sourcing. Equally important, hire for “culture fit”, not just “skills fit”. Train employees well, and trust them to do their job. They will reward you with hard work, loyalty, and stick-to-itiveness. On the other hand, the wrong team will make mistakes that endanger assets, create financial issues, and ultimately hinder the organization’s competitiveness and growth.
No company can avoid mistakes entirely. However, every company – including yours – can put systems in place to minimize their occurrence, or at least to mitigate their impact. It’s also important to create a culture of accountability (not blame), learn from mistakes, and ensure that they don’t recur. Only then can you get past the challenge, and emerge stronger on the other side.
- Delivering excellent customer service gives you repeat business that in turn enhances your sales and profits.
- Today, to deal with digitally savvy customers you need to have a solid AI-powered customer service in place.
- Skilled, competent, and passionate employees are critical from operations, market presence, financial progress, to innovation, cybersecurity, and compliance.
- Invest in your HR function, and bring in technology and automation to help improve talent sourcing.
- Create a culture of accountability within the organization by learning from mistakes, and ensuring that they don’t recur.