I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Business lessons from the gym

As long as you are willing to look, there are business lessons to be learned from many places. A local gym club has unfortunately provided numerous examples of how to alienate members.

image source: 123rf.com

So here are some of their mistakes that we can learn from:

  • send out quarterly invoices at seemingly random times and vary the means of delivery (snail mail or via staff to members)
  • never answer the phone and wait for at least 3 messages before returning any calls
  • ask for a deposit for the following year then question why members pay that much less in the first invoice of the year – either admit it is an extra fee or understand that a deposit is deducted from the main invoice
  • don’t answer emails
  • if you do answer emails (and it’s taken over two years for this to happen in our case) do not put your name at the end of the email, just use a signature with the club name and address
  • give out dates of major events (like the end of year performance) via wall posters 2 weeks beforehand – notices, emails and advance notice are overrated, surely?
  • claim to leave multiple messages, but not speak to member when at the club each week, as justification for not communicating important information. If nothing else, maybe it was worth checking if the correct phone number was being used (as no messages were ever received by us)

I have heard people praise the location and facilities but only ever criticise the organisation itself. It is a pity to see people travel further than necessary because they want a basic level of customer service.

Of course, that is the key lesson from all the mistakes above – provide customer service and make things easier for customers.

How much poor or mediocre service will you put up with? Are there situations where it bothers you more than others?

Attitude to mistakes

How do you deal with making mistakes? Do you accept that you are going to make mistakes when dealing with clients, and consider how to deal with the aftermath?

I came across a blog post by Danielle Keister where she advises new VAs that they will make mistakes. I love her attitude and her honesty in warning people that they will make mistakes – “Someone who says they never make mistakes is a liar (or delusional).”

What really caught my eye, though, is her ‘speech’ to prospective clients. She basically tells them that mistakes may occur despite her best intentions but that she will also work at fixing them as soon as she is aware of them. Her ideal business relationship is built on trust – people trust her to do the job and fix mistakes and she trusts them to be honest and give her feedback.

I have never written out my attitude about mistakes like Danielle, but I think what she has written is close to what I would write for myself. As a writer, I often deal with feedback from clients and fully expect that to occur – together, clients and I get the best result for their needs as I have the communications skills and they know their brand, business and customers best. This is why my quotes often include a certain number of edits.

Of course, that feedback is not often based on me making a mistake but on technicalities in content, personal preferences and unclear objectives. When it is my mistake, though, I apologise and do my best to quickly rectify the situation. I do that naturally out of a sense of pride and professional integrity.

Additionally, I know that I prefer a supplier to be honest and admit their mistakes to me – I am less likely to return somewhere that makes mistakes but denies or hide them. So it is a business decision to deal with mistakes openly, too.

Given that we are all human and make mistakes, do you have a policy or guideline for dealing with mistakes once you are aware of them?

Mistakes in emails…

Going on from my recent post about repeat messages in emails, where I mentioned owning up to a mistake rather than sending a corrected version as if nothing had happened, I thought I’d share this post I found with you.

Joan Pasay discusses getting a lot of emails with “Whoops!” in the subject line because people had discovered an error in the emails they had sent out. I agree with her suggestion of being upfront and ‘grown up’ in the subject line when you announce an error. As she says “I guess the lesson here is to just admit you made an error and not try to cover it up with a “Gee wilickers, I think I just might be a moron” type subject line. “”

Personally, I have never received an email with a whoops subject – have you? I’ve had emails announcing an error, but they mostly have been along the lines of “our may newsletter – with correction” which is perfectly acceptable. Although I always wonder if I should delete the original because I can’t be sure (without taking the time there and then to read the email) if the corrected version includes the entire message or just the correction.

So now am I wondering – what sorts of subjects have you seen from people who realise they made a msitake in an email already sent?

Use your words wisely!


Check details – and check again

Let’s face it not everyone will notice or care about a couple of small spelling or grammatical mistakes. But getting the details correct is absolutely critical.

Make sure you go back and check details in your work – whether it is something you have written, a professional wrote for you or a graphic designer has worked on for you. Ideally, get someone else to check your document just for details.

If in doubt at how easy it can be to make such mistakes, here are some real life examples…

  1. A marketing flyer for a local shopping strip where each shop added their ad looked great except for one little detail – they spelt the name of the suburb incorrectly! And I know because I saw the flyer in circulation so it went out without being corrected.
  2. A course registration form included a second page with the following under the header:
    Invoice Date: 18 December 2008

    Event: Course Name, Melbourne – 20 February 2008
    Obviously, prompt payment isn’t an issue with these people!

  3. A business sent out invitations to an event that cost them a lot of money to arrange. The invitations were sent out stating a day and date that didn’t match so they risked many people not turning up.
  4. 500 business cards were printed with the wrong mobile phone number because no one checked the original source. Luckily, the problem was noticed before any cards were given out.
  5. 100,000 letterhead were printed before anyone realised the disclaimer mentioned another (related) company name. Could you afford this sort of reprint?
  6. a book on small business quoted someone but used the wrong first name for her, which put her offside and made it hard for readers to research that woman
  7. the male CEO of a Melbourne company was named in a photo in an industry magazine – however, the photo was a woman and the article was not even related to the CEO or his company.

So while you won’t be alone with such mistakes, your credibility is better if you take the time to make sure details are present and correct. The cost of not checking can be huge.