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Do a Re-Take on Your Miss-Take

As we grow up, we were told not to make mistakes. In school, mistakes could result in poor grades …or worse, lost games! In your job, a mistake could land you in the unemployment line. Is it any wonder that we tend to downplay and downright hide our mistakes? We feel embarrassed and ashamed. We wish they had never happened. But there they are, mistakes! They seem unavoidable yet somehow predictable.

Don’t Hide Mistakes

As employers, we noticed that new employees, coming from other companies where mistakes were especially frowned upon, would seem to “whistle past the graveyard,” pretend like they never happened, or say things like, “Oh, don’t worry we have it all straightened out now,” as if the repair or the patch was the end of it – as if it was more important to simply get by the mistake than to take a good look at it and figure out how it happened …and how to prevent it in the future.

Celebrate Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable. It’s what you do with a mistake that’s important. In our business, we celebrated our mistakes and the mistakes of our people. Why? Because with the right attitude, inspection, and redesign, we knew we could make the mistake less likely to reoccur in the future.

Write New Documents

In fact, we learned that every mistake was caused by some kind of a misunderstanding, lack of information, or poor communication. So we focused on documents. Yes, documents! We knew that behind every mistake was a document waiting to be written, corrected, or clarified. Maybe it was a sign on the wall, a clause in a contract, an item in a job description. Maybe it was something on a checklist, a policy, a procedure, or a signoff sheet. But it was a document. And sometimes more than one!

When we started our business our contracts were three pages long, but when we sold our business, they were 37 pages long! Every mistake, when seen as an opportunity to tighten up, tune up, or level up is a gold mine. Randy Arnold once said, “Never waste a perfectly good mistake!”

Building on the Backs of Mistakes

So, given the number of mistakes we made building the Barefoot brand, is it any wonder that we entitled the 8th chapter of our Business Audio Theatre production of The Barefoot Spirit, “Never Waste A Perfectly Good Mistake”?  And yea, like any successful business, ours was fraught with mistakes. Chapter 8 recalls many, but more importantly, it tells the stories of how we used them to get better and how we used them to grow!

Giving Permission

You see, the key to getting the most out of any mistake is the magic word, missing in so many companies, missing in our upbringing, schooling, and former employers. That word is “Permission.” Not permission to be incompetent, but permission to admit to a procedural mistake, as long as you make it right, and not just right, but w-r-i-t-e! Write it down and improve the documents so the whole company continues to improve.

Taking Responsibility

In one scene, we arrive in Chicago for a big trade show where key buyers are coming to see our new products, but the new products are not waiting for us at the hotel like they were supposed to be. Aside from the graphic irritation and outright yelling that ensued, it becomes clear that the hotel receiving clerk refused the packages because the recipients, us, weren’t registered at the hotel …yet!

Never mind that he should have checked for future bookings, never mind that he had, to say the least, a very simplistic view of his job, and never mind that he screwed up a very expensive trip for the hotel’s guests who would never stay there again. And never mind that his paycheck is paid for by that guest and others! We took responsibility. We had to. Otherwise, it would happen again, and again. So, ultimately blame was not satisfying; however, a solution was. We thought, “What can we do on our end to make this less likely to reoccur?”

Best Laid Plans…

Our next package to a hotel in advance of a trade show had one-inch high lettering across it saying “DO NOT REFUSE THIS PACKAGE! Your Guest Michael Houlihan will be here on March 19th to claim it. Your boss Mary Smith ext. 293 is expecting it. Please call 1 800 750 8000 with any questions.” We wrote a new policy for all outgoing packages. We followed it up with a procedural checklist and signoff for our own people. Problem solved, right?

Wrong! A year later, even with the signage, a package was again refused. Why this time? The sign was facing down when the package was delivered! New policy: one inch high notices on all 6 sides! Now the problem was more likely solved.

A Better Idiot

One of our executives chided the “make mistakes right” policy, saying, “But Michael, you’re trying to make everything idiot-proof.” To which Michael retorted, “No, we are just trying to make it idiot resistant!” To which he retorted, “But Michael, even as we speak, they are building a better idiot!” …and so they were.

Chapter 8 is replete with scene after scene demonstrating mistake after mistake. But there’s a thread of principle in all the foolery. We improved our communications and became better focused and more realistic. In fact, we built our business on the backs of those mistakes.


When the state governments started lowering the allowable blood alcohol level from 1.00 to .08, we thought that is was a great time for wine with lower alcohol, especially since most women weigh less than a man and could be over the limit with that second glass of wine. So we came up with a new 6% alcohol wine product that would enable most women to have a second glass. Brilliant! Seemed like a slam dunk. Right? It was more of a slam!

The many complaints we received went something like this: “Now you’re making me drink twice as much!” and “Why do I have to pay the same price for half the alcohol?” Oops! We thought folks wanted to consume less alcohol to abide by the reduced allowable limit, but we were very wrong about that.

What Can We Do?

The chapter goes on with even more mistakes, but we don’t want to spoil it for you. You can hear Hollywood actors performing the mistakes to sound effects and music in the audiobook.

You can also learn how to cop an attitude about mistakes that will take you and your company to the next level. You will see how when management grants permission to make mistakes, people become more creative and help improve your company. Get a good laugh and a few good lessons from our mistakes! And make the most out of yours!

Please be our guest to a free chapter from our new theatrically performed audio play and enjoy the show!

Growth Personal Development

What Do the Brooklyn Bridge & the Golden Gate Bridge Have in Common with M&A?

Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth. 


While many people credit that quote to former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, it traces back to Prussian field general Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, who said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” back in the 19th century.  


That idea was a theme that ran through my recent interview with Bill Sanders, the Principal and Senior Consultant at Roebling Strauss, a consulting firm that helps companies once they’ve come together align processes and platforms. 


It wasn’t the only history lesson I got during our conversation, either. More on that down below.


Changing plans, pivoting, or whatever you want to call it, have become buzz words during the COVID-19 pandemic. While things are different at every company, they’re about to get really different everywhere soon. 


Analysts say we could be heading into a ‘golden age’ of mergers and acquisitions. In fact, most experts agree it’s likely to accelerate during COVID, including Bill. He says to look for an active fourth quarter. However, whether businesses will be scaling up and gobbling up their competitors while capital is cheap or whether it becomes a matter of survival, M&As aren’t anything new. Companies being acquired was a trend before the pandemic. 


 “Weak businesses are going to be snapped up because they need it. They need a lifeline,” Bill says. “In fact, I just talked to somebody a couple of weeks ago. They just paid $1 and took over a new business with 15 people in it just to keep those jobs alive.”


This is something the struck me, because here at the C-Suite Network we’ve been preaching, and practicing business continuity and helping others during this difficult economic time for many. It’s all about building bridges and making connections, which is something Bill takes to heart, literally!


Bill founded his company, Roebling Strauss, and decided to name it after two of the most iconic bridges in our country, John Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge designer, and Joseph Strauss, who designed the Golden Gate Bridge. Bill says he sees his work combing companies as building bridges between two places that weren’t connected before. 


“People would comment to me, ‘you’re really a bridge builder. You really like building relationships and bridging problems,'” Bill recalled. “I thought, ‘I’ve got a partial engineering background from electrical engineering and then finished in computer information systems, but maybe I better start reading up on bridges.’ I found a couple of heroes in the chief architects of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. They were both people who put people ahead of profits.” 


Then Bill gave me a quick bridge history lesson. 


“On the Roebling side, they were just beginning to find out what Caisson Disease is. They were driving the caissons down to the bedrock and bringing (workers) up too fast. They were basically getting the bends. Nobody knew what it was. (Roebling) flew doctors in from all over. He’d go up several times a day himself. He basically put himself in bed for the rest of his life. He was bedridden while he finished the bridge by giving instructions to his wife, who was basically the general contractor.”  


“On the Strauss side, he’s the first one to hang safety netting. There’s a great movie called Halfway to Hell about the 19 men that were saved on that bridge long before OSHA or anybody said you have to do this. (Strauss) said losing lives does not have to be the cost of doing business.”  


People like Roebling and Strauss have what we at the C-Suite Network like to call The Hero Factor, leaders who put people over profit.  


We continued the conversation talking about business and the trends we’re both seeing. You’ve probably heard me say during the pandemic. “Days become weeks. Weeks become months. Months become years.” All because change is happening so fast. COVID has been an accelerant for businesses everywhere. Bill has a similar take. He says we’re living in dog years. We’re getting about seven years of experience in just one year. 


“We have this kind of exponential convergence of all these technologies mashing together all the sociological change. What’s happening is businesses are starting to see the gaps between what they think they do and what their customers think they do,” Bill said. “Now they’re changing so fast if you don’t have a system to stay in touch with those customer wants and needs, then you may think you’re delivering, and it could have been exactly what they wanted three months ago.” 


How do companies know how to respond to customer needs during these unusual times? Bill says it’s never too late to pivot. If you do, have a plan to help your team members who are closest to the customers feed information to those in your organization so you can create change as quickly as possible. 


One type of change that seems to come quickly but never entirely goes as planned is a merger. As mentioned earlier, Bill is a master at bringing companies together after the sale. Usually, Bill gets called in because management has trouble getting ideas or strategic initiatives to work.  


“They call me because they know bringing someone in from the outside that has a dispassionate view overall can really ask the key questions and uncover those unspoken assumptions and challenge those mindsets that may have been a little calcified in the organization,” Bill said. 


He added, “It doesn’t matter what your strategy is. It doesn’t matter how much accountability you have in the execution of it. The minute you start engaging with a rapidly changing world, you have to have the systems that communicate, flex, and allow for adaptable execution.” 


Bill says execution and integration is something most companies don’t think about during the merger process. Companies will work out the terms of the deal but can’t figure out how they will work together.  


“The number one issue that I see is they don’t ask for enough post-merger,” Bill said. “All the creative thoughts get put upfront. All the numbers and legal stuff gets done before everybody can know about it. Then the corporate development team typically goes on to the next project, and they leave integration to the staff.” 


Since it’s often overlooked, integration can cause a lot of headaches. Bill says the most common mistake he sees in mergers is executives from both companies think just by throwing two similar businesses together, it will make a perfect union. Often it doesn’t, and innovation suffers because of it. 


“You just paid good money and put a big bet on a group of people who are obviously doing well enough you want to buy them. Why would you do everything you could to bring them in and help innovate? Not just what they’re doing, but what you’re doing as well,” Bill said. 


An interesting fact about Roebling Strauss is that they don’t advertise. Most of the firm’s business comes from word of mouth and referrals. While Bill says Roebling Strauss has a lot of repeat business, it’s never done the same thing twice. 


“One of my principles is I want to transfer knowledge. I get bored very easily,” Bill said. “You don’t ever want me operating anything, but I love putting it together.” 


Bill and I had an excellent conversation. We get into many of the strange things he’s come across during the merger process in the episode, which you can hear for yourself here 


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“This Is How To Spot And Stop Manipulation In Negotiations” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“If you’re not aware when manipulation occurs, it may be occurring more than you’re aware.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert  (Click to Tweet)   Click here to get the book!

“This Is How To Spot And Stop Manipulation In Negotiations”

People don’t realize; they’re always negotiating.

Negotiators manipulate one another during negotiations. Most people don’t want others to control them through manipulation. Once manipulation is recognized, the offended party may rail against those that assail them. And yet, others will cling to those that weave manipulative tactics against them and not accept the realization that the manipulator is causing them serious harm. Where do you fall on that paradigm?

The feeling of being manipulated is dependent on the perception of each individual. That’s why some negotiators may get away with blatant manipulation, while another may pay a hefty price for his perceived transgressions. Thus, the perception of manipulation is not a ‘one size fits all.’ The following will explain how to tell when someone is manipulating you and how to stop it.


Click here and discover how you can prevent others from manipulating you!


Remember, you’re always negotiating!


Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/


After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com


To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/