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Mentor lesson #1: it’s all in the recovery

November 30, 2009

I’m going to post a series of “Mentor lessons” which are lessons that I have learned from my various mentors over the years.

One of my most important mentors taught me many years ago that “it’s all in the recovery.”  His point was that no business is perfect and no person within a business is perfect.  So mistakes are going to happen.  It’s not that we make mistakes it’s how we recover from them that differentiates one business from another.

My first business was a 325 seat restaurant.  While we grew to be very,very busy (with 1 hour line ups in very cold Edmonton winters), we did a soft opening without any advertising or marketing.  We wanted business to grow slowly so that we could work out the kinks in our system.

In the early days we permitted the smoking section to sit right adjacent to the non-smoking section, which was very common.  Unfortunately, a smoking customer decided to light up a cigar which offended some of our non-smokers.  One in particular became particularly upset.

In fact, this customer was simply irate and out of control mad.  I made it my mission to turn him  around and make him a raving fan of our company.  Using a bit of humor, a lot of self-deprecation and even more humility I was not only able to satisfy him during that interaction, but he became one of our most regular (and lucrative) customers.

We were at very real risk of losing not only him and his business, but all the other prospective customers he would turn against us.

By taking a no questions asked, we messed up you are right attitude I diffused the situation and, in the final analysis, generated a lot profit from this circumstance.

We didn’t recover from every mistake we made, but we certainly recovered from this one.

In short, if your business, your employees or you make a mistake just correct it without question or qualification.  You never know how a little humility will be repaid.

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