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Building a business is not for the faint of heart. It’s risky, there are no guarantees, and the competition is fierce.

But it’s also exciting as all get out. It demands things of you that you never knew you had. And it invariably means you’re going to make mistakes. This is especially true in the nuts and bolts of business-building: Sales and Marketing.

Zero tolerance for errors may apply to your profession, craft, or construction trade. But in building your business, zero tolerance can mean zero growth. Without risk there is no reward.

To be successful, you must come to terms with the notion that you will make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you a failure. Unfortunately, many people don’t learn from their mistakes because they are consumed with trying to place the blame on someone else. Of course, avoid mistakes when possible, but mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them and don’t repeat them.

Mistakes recognize the value of real-life lessons. Just keep in mind that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking any risks – and that could mean you’re not making progress. Here are a few ways you can turn mistakes into beneficial experiences for your business:

  • Be Honest – Never try to cover up mistakes. The earlier you accept responsibility, the faster you’ll be able to correct the problem while maintaining your credibility.
  • Take Responsibility – Nobody wants to hear excuses – your bosses, your partners and especially your customers. It’s rare for managers to take that kind of responsibility. It’s a powerful way to show a sense of accountability for your actions (and those of your team). Then figure out what you can do to fix it.
  • Follow Up and Follow Through – Sometimes simple mistakes point to more complex problems that need to be corrected. When I worked on the Chrysler account at the ad agency BBDO, our team would do a post mortem after each big project. The goal was not to find fault or point fingers, but to identify problems so we could avoid them in the future.

A thorough evaluation can reveal something about your habits or the work processes that need to improve. Explore what went wrong and how to avert similar errors. Insight from others can often shed light on where things went wrong. Mistakes are opportunities for success. Mistakes often are prime times for people to turn bad situations into positive ones.

At Disney – the gold standard for customer service – they have a saying:“It may not always be our fault, but it is our problem.” In fact, Disney’s research reveals that customer loyalty actually goes up when problems are fixed.

Everyone makes mistakes. They are lessons; learn from them, and move forward. Be tenacious.

As a business
 consultant, Chris Hippler 
helps clients avoid 
mistakes when possible,
 and fix them when made.
 He is president of Capital 
Letters a business-to-
business marketing
company that focuses on 
getting results for clients
 through print and online communications. Contact him at or (734) 353-9918.

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