I’ve got to be honest with you. Making mistakes, stumbling and falling often feels like it’s my second job. I think it would be safe for me to assume that nearly everything I’ve ever learned has been mostly from making mistakes.
Not every mistake is equal. Not every mistake is an opportunity to learn. But thankfully, that doesn’t apply to most of my blunders and I often get the opportunity to introspect and evolve and make room from more mistakes.
As entrepreneurs and the self-employed, unless we hang on to every word a mentor has to spew or invest in online courses, we tend to learn the tricks of the trade as we fly solo and sometimes land flat on our face.
I’m no exception.
Long, long ago, in a land far away, early on in my career as a freelance web designer, I received a call from a BIG name retailer. I mean international BIG. I mean, OMG – call your friends, call your family, call everyone who told you not to go down the entrepreneurial path and shove it in their face – BIG.
And at this point it was just a preliminary phone call. I hadn’t even landed anything. As a matter of fact, the project manager who called could’ve called the wrong number.
They saw my portfolio and they found it was aligned with their brand aaaand they loved my vibe. They wanted to completely re-haul their online shop and they wanted to fly in and meet me by the end of the week.
I’d love to say that this was the stepping stone on the path to my bullet gray 2-door Bentley Continental.
After the initial – in your face blast of joy subsided, I froze. I dropped the ball.
Instead of coming to terms with my deepest insecurities, I convinced myself I didn’t want the contract from my dream OMG client and I came up with a list of valid “REASONS” why I couldn’t take it.
“Meh… I’m too small”
“I’m still a one-man show”
“I’ve never done this before”
“I’m not sure I can handle such a big project”
“I don’t have the resources to support them”
“I shouldn’t be in this business anyway”
“Let’s check what’s happening on Facebook.”
“I wonder what’s trending on Netflix.”
I completely zoned out.
But my ego, in a last effort to cushion its fall from grace, was too big to fold just like that.
So, instead of turning them down, I agreed to meet them. I sat through two meetings knowing full well there was absolutely nothing i was going to do to try and land them as a client. But to ensure I didn’t GET them under any circumstance whatsoever, I quote the project 6 times higher than the price I thought it should be.
It was perfect. They would obviously reject the proposal and my ego would stay sort of intact, and this whole incident will subconsciously creep up under therapy some time in the very late future.
When the CEO saw the price for the project he called to inform me that I was the highest bidder and the price was not what he had expected. He’d have to conference in the board of directors and “we’ll let you know”.
In business, “we’ll let you know” is one of the 50 ways of saying “thanks, no thanks. You’ll never hear from us again.”
But a few days later they called to accept my offer.
I nearly asked the project manager on the other end: WHY – Why would you even entertain my proposal at that crazy price from little local me who has never ever done anything like this before?
I didn’t jump for joy. I didn’t call anyone. I turned to my husband and told him to make sure all our legal disclaimers were filed and in place because “we’re going to get OMG sued in 6 months.”
Nine months into the project and a week before the launch, I didn’t get sued, the project didn’t fail, no one was disappointed. As a matter of fact, I over-delivered solely from the fear of under-delivering and the last time I checked, our custom-built online shop was still online and evergreen.
The project went smoothly for the client. But it came at multiple costs to me. As it turns out, I had underpriced the project and many character traits were tested.
Many life and business lessons were learned during the course of my contract with my BIG OMG client and I’ll save those for another day. But here are some that made the biggest impact.
Clients will judge your value based on your price. This may be obvious to most but to me, it had to be learned. A $20.00 pair of jeans may be made in the same factory as a $200.00 pair of jeans and possibly even by the same person who made the $2000.00 pair of jeans. The products may be equivalent but the perceived value in the marketplace is not. People will always assume that a higher priced product product is superior and better quality than a less expensive product.
Sometimes reasons are not excuses. They really are valid reasons that need to be addressed.
One great way to know the difference is people will tend to come up with multiple excuses but will have only one valid reason.
For example: If you don’t feel like going out to dinner, your reasons will be plentiful – you’re tired, it’s cold out, you have to wake up early, you slept late, etc. The more “reasons” you have, the more obvious it’s a bunch of excuses.
On the other hand, if you can’t go out to dinner because you have an early meeting in the morning – that’s a reason.
In your most challenging times – your true self, your truest character will come through.
My life rule #245 is to place a high value on integrity. So I felt as though I had a moral obligation to meet the client’s expectation and to deliver at whatever cost to me. And maannn! did it cost me – in time, in money, and in resources. But I couldn’t go back on my word. I couldn’t disappoint my client or myself.
If you want to know what someone is really made of, don’t judge them when they’re sitting on a pedestal on top of the world. Judge them when they are broken and in the trenches.
What was your biggest business mistake and how did you correct it?