THE BLOG
05/31/2016 11:44 am ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

Why Owning Your Mistakes is Actually Good for Business

So, you messed up. Perhaps a line extension fell flat on its face, or in an attempt to help a customer, you only made it worse, or your ad had an egregious typo that spelled something you'd rather not repeat aloud. As much as you wish it never happened and as much as you wish you could just ignore or deflect it, you have only one choice: Stand up and take full responsibility for it. On the surface, that might sound like some version of "damage control," but in reality, this embarrassing mistake of yours is an opportunity to actually grow your business.

It's an opportunity to increase customer trust
Most brands project an idealized version of themselves to the public. The idea is that if you project a perfect, professional image, everyone will trust you. Strangely enough, the opposite is true. If you project perfection, people will struggle to trust you. First off, no one is perfect, so if you're claiming to be, then it's easy to assume that you're hiding something.

When you make a mistake, that perfect image is shattered. You're now vulnerable. Making a mistake is something we can all relate to you, and handling it head-on shows authenticity. Instead of the idealized brand you projected, people see that you're a real person, and if you handle this moment the right way, people will come out the other side trusting you more, not less.

The lesson here? People love authenticity. The best part is that your business can practice this principle everyday, and next time you won't have to wait for something to go wrong to get an opportunity to show people the real you.

It's an opportunity to show your integrity
When things go wrong, could you dance around the issue, act like the problem isn't that big of a deal or blame someone else? Absolutely, and you might even succeed in avoiding the blame, but you'll end up with something much worse -- a label as someone who lacks integrity. When you make a mistake in business, the best thing to do is just admit it, apologize and move on. It shows that you have integrity and that you're giving everyone credit for being smart enough to spot a mistake when they see it. If you tackle it head-on and don't try to hide anything, you might be amazed to find that everyone just forgives you and moves on.

You can show people that you're working on a solution
Let's say you send out an order, and it's all wrong. You look bad, but if respond by working around the clock to reproduce the order and get it to them for free, you just changed the narrative from "They made a mistake" to "They really care about their customers." Throw in a deal to fulfill their next order for 50 percent off, and you may have just gotten a customer for life. Sure, it cost you this time, but you just got the chance to demonstrate how you react when things don't go your way. It's something we can all understand, and we appreciate when it's dealt with the right way.

It builds a company culture of transparency and risk-taking
Too often businesses, intentionally or unintentionally, are sending the message to their employees that mistakes are serious and unacceptable. As a result, you end up with a company culture that produces tentative, conservative work because people are afraid of failing.

When you stand up and take accountability for your mistakes, you send a clear message to employees that mistakes are part of life and aren't the end of the world. It's an important step towards creating a culture that is infinitely more productive. When people are comfortable to take risks, they're much more likely to produce brilliant ideas and be engaged in their work.