I worked for a smart VP of Marketing at a startup who once spent half our advertising budget on a big mistake. That’s right. She bought a massive billboard in Silicon Valley along the congested 101 freeway. But she never got it approved by the CEO and when the CEO drove to work one day, he saw it and went nuts.
The billboard was torn down the next day.
Here’s the difficult truth: When you are moving fast and stretching to build something great, you make mistakes. That’s a guarantee.
The stakes are especially high for business leaders in startup mode. I know a little about this as I have been the CEO of three software companies — including now at Aha! (which is product roadmap software).
It feels like there is no room for error at all, especially when one big mistake can land you in a precarious financial position. How you react to setbacks will prove your mettle as an entrepreneur.
The worst thing you can do when you mess up is stand still, that state of panic in which you keep reliving the mistake over and over in your mind and fail to react. This is the time for immediate action, not the time to curl up in a ball and hope it goes away.
Here’s my advice: Keep moving forward. More than ever, you need to come up with a plan to limit the damage and push on through.
Here are three tips to move forward with a stunning recovery.
Quit kicking yourself
Forgive yourself right now, because there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself. It’s natural at first to perceive your mistake as larger than life. But I would remind you that you are not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Laugh with your detractors if they show up to further knock you down. Show them that you are made of stronger stuff, and start building a reputation based on that strength, not weakness.
Fix it if you can
In the case of my bosses advertising billboard goof, we contacted the company that owned the sign and asked them to cover it up. They understood the situation (because billboards often come down early) and offered to cover it at no cost and provide us a 50% discount to post another billboard when we were ready. The lesson is that you should do everything you can to mitigate the damage immediately.
Grow on it
Look for the silver lining in the error that you made. Yes, mistakes can be painful, but they also can be the best way to learn and grow as a decision-maker. Everything in life is an opportunity if you have the right perspective. You will learn that it’s smart to have a back-up plan to help absorb the blow of a crisis. You will find new allies in unexpected places, and discover how much others want to see you make it.
Your success as an entrepeneur will be determined by your resiliency and your ability to recover from setbacks, large or small.
Experience helps you adopt new coping tools to handle the ups and downs when they come. Do not fear mistakes when they happen. The key is to keep moving forward as you adjust to the reality of each new day.
What was your biggest mistake and how did you stay calm and recover?