I think it’s important to share failures in my blog. I was hesitating and it’s scary because I’m afraid what you might think when I open up and admit what I did wrong. But on the other hand it’s my blog. A personal blog as well. Just writing about my successes would be really corny and salesey, no? So, here we go. My First Failure Post
Over a year and a half ago now, Bini, director of marketing from Bnei Akiva called me up and asked for a video promo for their Mach Hach Ba’Aretz Israel program. At the time I was buried in work. I didn’t have a single slot available for the next three months but I wanted to do the job. “I am very busy,” I said to Bini, “but I’m sure we can squeeze this in.” I wasn’t really sure, honestly, because the many deadlines were staggering. After many phone calls and re-arranging my schedule I called her back and said: Of course we can do this. I just want to reiterate that I need to outsource the project to a different video production company but I would oversee it. She agreed and we went ahead with the project.
A Bad Hire is Worse than No Hire
Since I was busy with other post production commitments, I hired people in Israel to shoot, and I outsourced the pre and post-production to another well known Jewish video production company in NY. They had to edit the promotional video. Once they got the footage from Israel they started editing. They delivered the video to me a few weeks later so I could show it to our client. I wasn’t crazy about the results but I thought it was good enough and would make the client happy. Bnei Akiva sent us their feedback, and we had the other production company make the final adjustments before delivering the end result to Bnei Akiva.
The Big Disappointment and a Letter of Shame
A year passes and I receive an email from the director of World Bnei Akiva.
He writes (I paraphrase):
I hope all is well.
I’ve been wanting for a while to send you an email expressing my disappointment in the MH video you have produced for us.
The minute we received your first version knew we are in trouble. Then the fixed version compared to the original was okay… but nothing like what we expect when we hire you.
I find this upsetting since we spend charity funds for this to encourage kids to go to Israel. The result was a disaster. And less kids going to Israel.
Perhaps a meeting is appropriate.
My Ego Went Down the Toilet
Wow, what a bummer. I delivered something that upset a client? No way. I guess there’s a first time for everything. I started reacting in a defensive way in my head, and rationalizing all kinds of things why he was wrong and his perspective was distorted. But after thinking it over for a few days, I came to the conclusion that the only one who was distorted was me. I didn’t do what I have set myself up for: TO DELIVER EXCELLENCE ON EVERY PROJECT. How disappointing.
I first thought about refunding the money. But I had already paid the other video production company and shooters in Israel. I could not afford that. I filed the refund idea away as my last step if every other solution I could come up with were to fail.
Meeting in the Lions Cave
I called up the director of Bnei Akiva and arranged a meeting with him. In the meeting I let him pour out all his disappointments. I didn’t say a word. I was there to listen. Once he was done, I apologized and suggested the following: How about I travel to Israel, shoot for 4 days the Mach Hach trip myself and produce a brand new video from scratch…at no cost. We agreed on a date for the summer and I traveled to Israel and produced the video myself.
Shmuel – Hoffman – Video? Write in the comments.
So here are the two videos. One was filmed and edited by an outsourced team, and the other was filmed and edited by me. Which do you think is the real Shmuel Hoffman video? Write your guess in the comments below this post.
I’ll reveal the correct answer in a future post…
Lessons I Learned
I’m glad I was tested this way because I think how you react to these kind of issues make or break your business. Here are five points I take with me forever:
1. If a client complains, never defend yourself. The customer is ALWAYS right. Yes. Even if he is not right or he messed up things. It’s YOU who controls the situation and outcome.
2. Be sorry and apologize. WITHOUT SAYING “BUT.” The no-but rule is crucial. Say you are sorry and shut up. Don’t explain what went wrong. It doesn’t matter. Clients look for results, not excuses.
3. Be generous. You are on a mission with your clients. So, help them out where you can.
4. Correct the error or return the money. That’s a hard one. Because we small business owners usually don’t have much wiggle room to refund thousands of $$$, right? Neverthless,what this unhappy client could cost you is thousands more. And not only that. They will go to their friends and peers and Un-rave about you. So, you potentially lose hundreds of thousands of $$$ over time. Not worth it.
5. If you have to outsource hire the right company/person. My mistake and I’m sure I’m not alone in this is that we hire when emergency arises on the horizon. And that’s way to late for a good hire. You plan for failure. Dave Ramsey talks about this issue in his amazing book “Entreleadership“. Always be on the lookout for good people, whether you have a project or not. Then you’ll be ready to deliver when the project comes up.
Thankfully I was able to restore my client’s faith in me. They’ve asked me to do another project – woohoo! It’s worth it to go the extra mile.