Lindsay Bell

Business Lessons Learned: Remember to Watch Your Step

By: Lindsay Bell | July 31, 2013 | 

Business Lessons Learned: Remember to Watch Your Step

By Lindsay Bell-Wheeler

As Kristen Matthews mentioned in her post yesterday, I too love life lessons.

Those moments where you realize you’ve made a bad decision, or chose incorrectly.

Now, as much as I love life lessons, I don’t love business lessons learned at the expense of a client. Derp.

That said, much like our fearless leader Gini Dietrich (and Kristen!), I do love sharing life/business lessons.

Because, as the day inevitably dawns bright and clear after every dark and stormy bad decision or questionable choice, you always learn something valuable, and shareable. (If you don’t – you should probably reboot yourself and start life over.)

I’ll Fall On My Sword….

So, here are three lessons I learned this month. Well, actually, I learned them a long time ago – but somehow forgot about them.

Haste Makes Waste

As a former TV producer of 20 years, this slip particularly pains me. I preach “research” like a mad-woman. But, I was bamboozled by a tight turn-around, and a sweet deal.

For shame, Lindsay.

The deal came from a SaaS company I had done a little digging on a few months back – and I’d obviously shared my email with them at some point {email marketing is not dead!} The deal had a catch – only 48 hours to join. And by the time I opened the one in question, the clock had ticked down to 24 hours or so.


I had a conflab with the powers that be, and based on my memory – and my recommendation – we went for it. And it was *koff* a bit of a nightmare.

Lesson Learned: When making a big change, don’t rely on your memory of something you poked around in a month or more ago. Even if the clock’s ticking, breathe, calm yourself, go back and do some more research, and really be confident it’s the best choice for you.

Don’t Assume Anything!

I am always somewhat saddened when people/companies stretch the truth to make themselves sound better than they actually are.

Yes, I know, that’s rich coming from an ex-media type, isn’t it? Even richer for an ex-media type who now works in marketing and PR. It’s absolutely LOL-inducing, right? But it is fact.

And yes, I feel like a jerk for making assumptions. I assumed  when a company advertises itself as an ‘X’ provider, said company would have the internal infrastructure and capabilities to actually provide ‘X.’ You know, relatively pain free (heck, there’s *always* glitches and a learning curve).

But this wasn’t the case. And that’s my fault for not taking the time to dig deeper (see above), question everything, and trust no one.

Lesson Learned: Read the fine print, and don’t believe the glossy hype machine. I realize this is ‘101’ stuff, stuff I don’t even have to remind my 14 year old son about. But consider this: I’m fairly savvy, a bit of a cynic at heart, and yet I had a day when life was probably a bit hectic, maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before, maybe the planets aligned in some perfect marketing/sucker formation – whatever it was – BOOM – I let my guard down, and didn’t do my due diligence. It could happen to you too.

Try Before You Buy

Yup. I should have made sure we kept our old service, and factored in enough time to get up to speed and all the glitches worked out before we switched. But I didn’t. So, when we realized there were major compatibility issues with the product, we didn’t have an alternative, and were quickly running out of time on an upcoming project.

Lesson Learned: It ultimately took us two solid weeks of test runs and dealings with customer service before we got things functioning at an acceptable level. And, as mentioned above, a client ended up with less than 100 percent. And anything less than 100 percent is not good enough for me.

If You Fall on Yours…

I also learned loads about how an organization can do things to head off the two solid weeks of head banging, eyeball poking frustration  we went through.

Don’t Oversell Yourself

Please, businesses, for the love of all that is holy – stop over-selling yourself. Whether you’re over-selling your product’s functionality and capabilities, its usability factor, or the level of customer service you’re able to provide – please, just stop.

You know what happens when you oversell and can’t deliver? Customers get really annoyed.

Plan Ahead

If you’re doing an email blast with an offer for pro level membership – an offer so sweet (which, admittedly, it was!) there’s a good chance a whole lot of people are going to take you up on said offer – please have your customer service people prepped for what might be a deluge of issues.

Think about it. A boatload of new clients. Using your service to help make their business offerings look/function better. All using your service for the first time – at the same time!

Plan for a massive increase of customer service issues, insist on rapid-fire turn around of complaint emails, and ensure your people are schooled in how to use your product.

When a customer service rep starts Googling for answers…?  Yeah, that “really annoyed” feeling mentioned above ratchets up to “head blowing off.”

Website Help Desk

And last but not least, have a comprehensive web-based help desk set up. This is of particular importance if you’re offering some type of software as a service.

How about a Q&A section? Potential glitches section? A “Mac or PC” section?

Perhaps a library of videos – in depth videos, hand-holding A to Zed videos – anything at all where a time strapped user can do their own trouble shooting, while waiting for returned phone calls and/or emails.

So, there you have it. Heck, we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. But I don’t plan on making those same mistakes again any time soon.

About Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

  • I didn’t know about this! You’re fired!
    We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human (unfortunately). It’s in how we fix those mistakes that’s important. You and the team fixed this one well. And now we have a process to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Yay!

    • ginidietrich “I didn’t know about this!” – That made me laugh out loud. 😉

  • I feel like you’ve reaffirmed a decision we made last week NOT to go with one of these time-sensitive deals. Ultimately, there were too many big question marks that we couldn’t answer in the time we had to decide to purchase. I felt strongly enough that we could do the same thing cheaper with current tools and I think we’ll end up with something just as good.
    Also, I really dislike time-sensitive deals like this. If you’re only giving me 48 hours to decide, you clearly don’t want to give me ample time to do my research. Two weeks, a month – totally reasonable. Two days? That always raises a big red flag. I don’t like making panic decisions just to get a good price. I definitely feel cynical that way – we should start a club.

  • It’s great when we learn from our mistakes, but even better when we help others learn from them. Thanks for doing that, Lindsay.

    • Word Ninja And they were such basic dumb things, right? I think that’s where we falter most often though – you just get busy or life gets hectic and you forget “101” stuff! I had to break it down and figure out where it all fell apart. T’was a good exercise actually.

  • Thanks for sharing Ell Bee! This line right here-It’s absolutely LOL-inducing, right?- gold. 
    When I actually get to yoga, we practice mindfulness and being in the moment. It’s a solid skill, especially when pressure mounts. Of course, I didn’t even bother to read the instructions on the Adobe update and installed all the ask stuff and had to have an intern help me. Luddite.

    • RebeccaTodd Thanks Rebecca, you know when a post just swirls around your head for days on end….? This one did. I knew I had to write it. But, as my tat on my left wrist says “sic vita est”. Stuff happens, deal with it, learn from it, and move on. 🙂

  • The Googling of the answers to questions just baffles me – it makes me laugh now, but in the moment I think my head was going to explode. 
    Couldn’t agree more on the try before you buy – even if it’s a 7 day trial – and not just a demo. They make it look so easy to use and you’re like “Wow this is so cool!” then you get in there and are like “how the heck did they do that.” Ok, maybe that’s just me, but still, try before you buy!!!

    • yvettepistorio LOL Yes, you and I sure were in the trenches for those two weeks, weren’t we?? But, we realized that we’re a pretty darn good team together when the sh*t hits the fan. I always enjoy going through bad stuff – in business OR life – because you learn something and often discover some good during the process. 😀

      • belllindsay 😀 Agreed!

      • belllindsay yvettepistorio Sigh, we just went thru something when we were looking into some software. The company wanted full year payment upfront and wouldnt offer anything more than a short demo. Not even a 2 day trial! And no refunds! Needless to say we passed.

        • sydcon_mktg yvettepistorio LOL!! Now *that’s* a sales pitch! I’m pretty sure I would have passed on that one as well. 😉

    • yvettepistorio Customer service googling your tech issues? Totally reminds me of my dark, dark days using a Dell notebook. Sometimes I would google at the same time and see the “answers” (which, of course, weren’t really solutions) pop up seconds before they recited them to me.

      • RobBiesenbach yvettepistorio Yeah, that was certainly unusual Rob. 😉

        • belllindsay RobBiesenbach Unusual and really bad – But at least they admitted they were Googling it, I guess. I just prefer that you say “you know what, I don’t know the answer, let me find out and get back to you” instead of keeping us on the phone for hours.

      • RobBiesenbach yvettepistorio Also, these days I usually try to solve my own issues *before* I call customer service. LOL Getting on the phone with someone is a last last LAST resort for me. I can’t stand those calls!!!

  • littlegiantprod

    Gosh this is a great post.  I too have been in the same predicament.  However, it was a conference that I got asked to speak.  And it wasn’t what I thought.  Needless to say, I didn’t want to associate with this particular organization who like you said, “oversold themselves.”  Research and extra verification would’ve helped.  I learned my lesson for next time.

    • littlegiantprod Right? It’s amazing how often we blow through things, because we’re busy, or kind of excited about the prospect – and then get ourselves kicked in the butt for doing so. 😉 So, when IS next time….?? 🙂

      • littlegiantprod

        belllindsay littlegiantprod Not sure when is next time .  However, I do know for sure I will triple check the company:)

  • I’ve heard that some people undersell themselves and then they over deliver. 
    However, overselling isn’t going to do anything good for you particularly if you don’t deliver in the end.
    Great lessons learned.

    • IpjRobson Cheers! DickCarlson made a good point above, which speaks to what you’ve said here – underselling can often so you more harm than good – no one wants to work with the cheapest guy on the block (generally) – because in this world, you really do ‘get what you pay for’. As for under-selling/over-delivering syndrome – the trend here in the hot Toronto real estate market these days is to deeply undervalue the asking price of a house when it goes on the market – guess what happens then?? Said agent gets to put *Sold Over Asking!!* on all his lawn signs and marketing collateral! It drives me BONKERS!

  • But everything on the internet is true…..

    • bdorman264 Haha…you beat me to the punch – this is exactly what I was thinking!

    • bdorman264 No Bill. Everything you see on *TV* is true. Sheeesh. 😉

  • News Alert:  belllindsay is not a ‘Bot – she’s a real-live human! And I already told her how I love the way she makes lemonade out of life’s imperfect lemons! And yes, dang great pic on many levels! 🙂

  • DickCarlson

    I’ve always said that the clients I get AFTER they’ve had the “low-price special” experience are much easier to work with than the ones that come to me first.  There’s a reason that I’m not a Cheap Charlie — it’s not my first rodeo, and I build in enough money to my pricing to make sure that I’ll be able to service your account, not just GET your account.
    When I used to hire vendors at MSFT, I’d often take a low bidder aside after the awards and tell them that there was no way they could possibly have done the job for that much money, and that savvy managers just weren’t going to take them seriously.  They thought I was nuts.

    • DickCarlson Valuable point Dick – as much as businesses can hurt themselves by over inflating themselves – they can do as much damage by UNDER-valuing. And kudos to you for taking the time to try and share that bit of insight with those ‘under-bidders’ – I bet they eventually got it, after losing pitch after pitch. 😉

  • susancellura

    This statement, “I assumed  when a company advertises itself as an ‘X’ provider, said company would have the internal infrastructure and capabilities to actually provide ‘X.’”
    I know I should not “assume” because of the well-known make-up of the word, but in business and personal life, wouldn’t it be nice for people to actually be what they claim?
    I sometimes I think I’m too trusting, you know, until someone proves me wrong about what I think about them. Ah, well.
    And, I love the picture!!! 

    • susancellura Yup. Me too. Incredible how many people ‘over inflate’ themselves. You know, you WILL get caught out eventually. 🙂

      • susancellura

        belllindsay Just like, “the numbers  never lie”  !  🙂

      • belllindsay susancellura No one has figured out yet that I am not really Richard Branson. 😉

        • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes belllindsay susancellura I thought you were Tom Petty!!!!

  • I guess mine doesn’t paint me in a very favorable light but since when do our “lessons learned” do that anyway? A LONG time ago, several of us staff members had identical assignments but for different areas — it was a timeline for implementation but “Mary” had one county in Florida, I had another, “Joe” had another, etc. One coworker (not me, sadly) did a thought-through plan and the rest of us, pressed for time, essentially took hers and inserted our counties’ names in. It’s not that we didn’t have her consent (we did) but that the project was more sophisticated than that so when the executive director started asking specific questions, all of us except the original coworker who actually thought it through gave the ED deer in the headlights looks (which is also bad because she was a big deer hunter but I digress……). She called us out on it (and gave the coworker who did the work the props she deserved). I have never forgotten that feeling of embarrassment and, worst of all, knowing I had done a disservice to the kids we serve but half-doing the work. Lesson learned. And hopefully applied. Venison, anyone? 🙂

    • biggreenpen Oh. Ugh. I can FEEL that pit in the stomach feeling as I type this! LOL It’s so horrible when you get ‘caught out’ on something, isn’t it! (er, not that I ever cut corners…). We’ve all been there, but the great thing is one NEVER forgets that feeling, and I’m pretty sure that’s a mistake you’ve never made again!! I think the whole point of having experiences like this – whether 20 years ago or just last week – is to learn something from them. As for you being painted in a bad light?? Pu-lease. How many people are doing those same things TODAY, in their 30’s and 40’s??? Many. But I bet YOU aren’t!! “)

  • patmrhoads

    I genuinely love it when blog posts go back and cover some of the basics sometimes. Because as smart as we all are, we do need to be reminded not to make the entry level mistakes once in a while. 
    belllindsay, thanks for sharing these less-than-stellar moments with us, because if we’re honest, we’ve all had them. And if we’re forthright about them with each other, we might be able to help others avoid their own “oh s**t” moments.

    • patmrhoads Cheers Pat! And that’s why I wanted to share, really. The more I went over and over the events leading up to those “Black Days in July” – I thought “wow, that was really dumb!” LOL But I also thought “well, if I can be that dumb at times, surely others do it too!” It’s also kinda cleansing to get something out of your head and onto ‘paper’. I feel better after sharing. Is that a chick thing….? 😉

      • patmrhoads

        belllindsay In all seriousness, I don’t think it is a chick thing. I think it’s a thing for people who prefer to own their mistakes. It feels cathartic to get them out there, be honest about the mistake and the lesson learned, and move on. So, good for you for owning your actions!

        • patmrhoads I really appreciate you saying that. I also felt I owed it to the client who ended up with “less than” because of the debacle. 🙂

  • Debra I agree Debra – but at the very least – if you’re not going to get back to me within a reasonable timeframe, and I’m desperate for answers – I’d at least like to have the option to figure it out myself! LOL