It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in or what your profession or trade is, when you run your own business, there is one thing you will make plenty of on regular basis. Mistakes.
You can expect accidents and you can expect to do things the wrong way. For the more serious stuff that you can’t control, you can cover yourself with something like public liability insurance, employers’ liability insurance or any number of different packages designed to protect against the common mishaps of your industry. For the stuff that is completely your fault and not so easily insured, there’s only really one solution. The best thing you can possibly do is take a deep breath, keep a mental note of your mistake and move on.
When something goes wrong, and it frequently does, there is a very natural urge to find out exactly why something has gone wrong and who is to blame. There is nothing wrong with this – establishing why something has gone wrong and identifying the mistake itself is incredibly important. Finding out who is responsible is equally important and a part of that process, but what is a bad move however is turning that into a jingoistic witch-hunt. Automatically dismissing whoever is to blame for something going wrong is also rarely the best course of action.
Unless someone has been very consciously negligent or acted illegally, dismissing them for making a mistake can be incredibly damaging. First of all, people learn from mistakes and the individual who has just done something wrong is unlikely to make the same mistake twice. Their replacement on the other hand might.
Secondly, bear in mind that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone – including all of your other employees and suppliers. If you are seen to automatically dismiss people for making mistakes, how likely do you think it is that others will own up to their subsequent errors? You might get a few honest and honour-bound types confessing to their mistakes, but the vast majority of slip ups will merely be swept under the rug away from your gaze which in the long term could be much more damaging. Sooner or later there could be a business critical slip-up that your staff is determined to hide from you out of fear.
Learning and adapting
You don’t want to encourage recklessness or carelessness, but you do want to encourage an environment where people keep you informed with what’s going on. When you run a small business, it is your job to know what is going on so you can do something about it. A mistake tends to be a very rapid learning experience and can almost be argued as a beneficial training exercise in the long run.
Some accidents are thrust upon you. There is nothing you can do about them except for prepare with an adequate insurance policy and a wider reaching business continuity plan. Other accidents however can be prevented from happening again in the future by learning from your mistakes.
Written by David Hing for YOUR Insurance, a broker specialising in public liability insurance for small businesses and tradesmen.