Hey, You’re Human

Everyone makes mistakes. Here’s how to learn from them.

“They Changed Their Logo”

The Problem

Sally Back was elated. Thanks to her hard work, the owner of Backhome Creations, an authorized Kaeser & Blair (asi/238600) dealer, earned the opportunity to provide a large bank with hundreds of hats embroidered with the institution’s logo. The order, Back reasoned at the time, would open the floodgates for a river of new sales, not only with the bank but with other branches that were part of the same company. Fortunately, Back had already conducted business with a smaller branch within the organization so she had the logo on file – or so she thought. Eager to impress by turning the order quickly, Back flashed into action, speedily sending the logo to a reliable embroiderer, who stitched it on the caps and swiftly shipped them.

Then Back got the phone call every sales rep dreads. It was the bank’s buyer. The logos were all wrong. “They had changed their logo and I didn’t know,” says Back. “My heart just sank.”

The Solution

Diligent and meticulous throughout her nearly two decades in the promotional products industry, Back admits she was uncharacteristically unscrupulous on this job. “We didn’t do a proof or spec sample,” she says. And while the bank failed to inform her that its logo had changed, she believed the burden of responsibility lay with her for not checking. “I realized that I was at a point where I could lose this client forever or I could use it as a big opportunity,” she says. Opting for the latter, she took ownership of the slip-up. “I paid for the remake on the whole order.”

Doing so dented her pocketbook , but that was only in the short term. The bank was so impressed with Back’s handling of the mistake, its buyer decided to work with her again – and again. What’s more, her deft orchestration of the bank’s promotional products initiatives since then has helped her earn business with four other branches within the network. These days, Back even runs a company store for the client. “The caps we got wrong worked out too,” she says. “I kept them and handed them out as samples. I’ve sold thousands and thousands of that cap because of the samples.”

The Lesson

First, the obvious: Ensure you have clients’ artwork correct and get them to sign off on approvals before going into production. Perhaps, however, the more important lesson is that when an order derails, you can earn a buyer’s long-term loyalty by staying positive and delivering a workable solution. “Bad news isn’t always so bad,” says Back. “When something goes wrong, you can view it as a defeat or your time to shine with service.”