I suck. I really suck.
But I’ve been sick.
But I needed the rest and lost an hour because of the time change.
I still suck.
Such is the inner conversation when you know you’ve screwed up. It really doesn’t matter how small or little the mistake is, except some suckage may take longer to get over than others.
I didn’t put a potential client consultation on my calendar. When I forgot about it, I thought, “Oh, wait I’m not late.” But I was late. I was three hours late. Not to mention I already had to reschedule because I’ve been sick. So I’ve failed a potential client not once, but twice.
I know mistakes are inevitable, but in a brand new business, they hurt so very much. And you start questioning everything you’ve built.
But don’t go into a endless cycle of self-hate. Here’s a few (slightly unusual) things to try when you eff things up:
1. Apologize. Immediately. This is a no-brainer, but there have been times where you feel so bad you don’t even want to address the situation or talk to the person again. Let’s be real. That doesn’t work, especially in business. I sent an e-mail and asked to reschedule but told her I understood if she didn’t want to.
2. Be honest. Don’t just make excuses. Hopefully, if you’ve been following good business practices in today’s social media world, you’ve developed a rapport with this person before talking to them about being a potential client. I told her exactly what happened, and she was already aware of my illness and giving me some wellness tips.
If this is someone you have never interacted with, keep things brief and simple. There’s no need to explain every little detail as to why you screwed up. Just admit you did and move on.
3. Dwell. This is where my advice takes a bit of a turn away from the norm. Give the period in between the time you’ve communicated with this person and the time they respond to think about what you did. This may be a few minutes, or, in my case, several hours. I like to call this the “Wait For Lashing, Hope For Grace” period.
Think about all of the reasons why you screwed up. Yep, every single one. Think about what would have happened had you done what you’re supposed to do. Heck, even think about the absolute worst thing that could happen in the future.
For me – she may never speak to me again. She may un-friend me from Facebook, tell everyone in my networking group what I did and insist on never using me for virtual assistant/administrative consultant or writing services. Ever. My first two clients came from this group, so that could mean the end of a good opportunity for leads. That’s…well, that’s a pretty big deal.
Hey, I didn’t say dwelling on it would bring the bright fuzzies, did I? But keep going.
4. Learn. I mean it. Don’t just say, “Oh, well. I won’t ever let that happen again.” Really, truly learn from these mistakes. Take all of the things you’ve been dwelling on (yep!) and make something positive out of this.
In my case, I decided to blog about it, because I know everyone makes mistakes and wants concrete steps on what to do immediately after. It’s also one of my recommendations. Writing it down is great, because it gets it out of your head (at least temporarily) and it provides a written record to keep yourself accountable.
I’m also taking action. There’s the obvious stuff, like always write down appointment times immediately. Do not wait.
I had considered creating firm business hours for myself. This confirms it. More than likely I will be available from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (or possibly 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.) Central time. This gives my East coast folks some time with me after their 9-5 and still includes my Pacific folks’ primary business hours.
I’m also going to specify one or two days and just dedicate them to consultations. Most likely, this will be Thursday and/or Friday. Mondays are hard. Especially when you’re getting over something. But now it will no longer be a reason to miss them. It narrows down the time period so I can remember.
5. Make Amends. Even if it’s a snail-mail postcard or note, do something a little extra than just apologize over the phone or via e-mail. Even if that person never responds, you’ll feel better about taking one last step. No bridges burned. And it may even renew your relationship with that person.
I’ll be honest. I’m still really bummed out about it, especially since I never got a response. But I’m so grateful I have this outlet so that others can learn from my mistakes.