Mistakes Are Good

“Once corrected in the right way, mistakes bring clarity of vision.”

Recently, my Partner and I discovered something unpleasant in the companies we run. Our staff decided to own a mistake instead of owning up to it. Therefore jeopardizing the life of the staff and their families. This is what happened:

One of the staff who was remitting the Companies statutory payments left us. She never got to do a proper hand over. As time passed by, things began to unravel. The person who was assigned this task discovered that there are some months that the system had not captured. But on our end, we knew that it was remitted. So they asked for receipts, and he said that he will get the receipts. He calls the predecessor and asks for the receipts in vain. The successor realises that penalties continue to accrue and decides to pay it from his salary. Unfortunately, he doesn’t say it to anyone. He owns the problem.



Six months down the line, he hasn’t managed to pay because it is not a small amount. But remember he did not say it. So he continues to struggle and we realise he is not as efficient as he used to be. So we decide to speak to him and he opens up. He tells us the entire story. We are in shock and disbelief. He says that he decided to own up the problem and pay the penalties because it sits in his docket.

We see secrecy. We are mad. Mad, not because of the problem, but because we were left in the dark in all this – there was zero communication. We are unhappy because there was no honesty and secrecy had settled in. We could not fathom that our trusted team can hide such a thing from us. My partner, who is usually this calm and quiet person, begins to speak firmly about secrecy and openness.



As my partner was speaking, one thing occurred to me: he was actually communicating and reinforcing the vision he has for the company. I shall quote him verbatim: “these two companies are my lifeline. And they are the legacy that I shall leave to my children. Do not joke with them. Never ever jeopardise their existence.”

This helped me a great deal to remember why we work so hard to grow these companies. It was a reminder to remain focused on the end game despite challenges. It was a call to keep innovating and be creative with solutions. It was a reminder to always be relevant in your line of business. It was a wake up call to focus on the legacy, to focus on what you set to achieve. It was a reminder to kill distraction and focus on the vision. It was a moment of being Re-energized. All this, due to a mistake by the Staff. I can never thank them enough for the mistake: but i dare not speak loud.

Because of this mistake, three things happened:

  1. We were able to explain the meaning of own a problem and own up to a problem. When you do something and you don’t say it nor communicate, but proceed to correct it, you have owned the problem. If you communicate and then correct, then you have owned up to the problem. Many people confuse these two words. In our case, staff owned the problem but did not own up to the problem. But they thought they were owning up.
  2. We were able to communicate the genesis of our tag lines in a better way. Our tag lines are We are Open (for company A) and Be Real (for Company B). In the two tag lines, we advocate honesty and openness. We abhor secrets. Sin thrives in secrets. Through their mistake, we were able to thoroughly replay and repeat that they need to be open and speak up when a mistake takes place: to be open all the time, rather than being secretive. Secrets are bad. They should not be afraid when a mistake happens: they need to be open.
  3. We clarified the vision that we have for the companies. We were able to tell them why we work so hard to make sure these companies grow.

It is from this, that it occurred to me that mistakes can help to clarify vision, and energise you, if you take them positively and see it as an opportunity.


Promotional Messages And How They Work Against Your Brand

While communicating, it is important that an organisation is careful not to do the following:

a. Overcommunicate, or what is called information overload.

b. Redundancy or repetition.

Unfortunately, many organisations are not keen enough not to cross these lines. On the contrary, they think that the more information they push out to their customers, the more they connect with them. They keep repeating the same thing over and over again with the hope that it sticks in the minds of their customers and keeps them on top of the customers’ minds. An example of such communication is promotional messages sent by companies to our phones.

Just because a customer interacted with your product or service does not mean that they should be added to a mailing/texting list. It unfair to them because they neither signed up to it nor were they consulted before being added to it. What these organisations do not understand is that in mind of the customers, these messages are persistently irritating. When something is irritating, one automatically tries their best to avoid it. That is why we believe that promotional messages work against brands, and for the following reasons:

  1. Noise – In the world we live in, noise has become a huge distraction in our lives. There are numerous attempts to reduce screen time, kill notifications, have a set time to check your phone etc. All these are aimed at increasing ones attention span in an increasingly distractive space. Therefore when a notification from a promotional message appears, it adds to the noise that your customers are vehemently trying to block.
  2. Resentment – In business, there nothing as catastrophic as when customers begin to resent your product/service. One of the reasons why customers would end up resenting what you offer is when you consistently send them messages that have no value to their busy lives. This resentment begins to happen subconsciously and it becomes so ingrained in the mind that the customer that they deliberately choose not to associate with your brand anymore. Consumers are won when you appeal to their self-interests. Promotional messages don’t appeal to their self-interest. They actually work against the self-interest of time preservation.
  3. Loss of customers – After resentment in comes withdrawal. Your customers begin to pull away from your annoyance, and immediately flag down anything that reminds them of it. They end up looking for alternatives in an attempt to get a similar service with fewer irritations.
  4. Profit loss – Anyone in business knows that customers are a very important asset to any business. If you lose them, you lose revenue. When you lose revenue, you shut down. When customers no longer find your company ethical, then they don’t see the need for promoting your business.

It’s important that products and services adapt to the spirit of being rare while still being alive in the minds of their consumers.  It’s a tricky balance but it is achievable. Instead of bombarding customers with messages, organisations could try creating experiences that last. Find ways to entrench memorable experiences or stories in your client’s hearts and minds.

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