Recently, I was helping oversee a large installation project for one of my clients’ buildings. It was going beautifully till suddenly, I was told that I had forgotten to order an entire hallway’s framing. This was on a Friday, and the client was expecting Very Important Guests for a meeting at 8 a.m. Monday morning.
The first thought, as always, is to panic. Then to faint. Then to be swallowed in a hole and disappear.
Thankfully, these thoughts generally only last a few seconds and I am able to keep a poker face of composure while absorbing the unfortunate news. My first action was to place a call and see if there was any way to create a solution to the problem.
- Could my vendor produce the needed materials over the weekend and let me come and pick them up?
- Would the facility be open so that I could come and install the missing pieces before Monday morning?
Once I had the answers, the next and most painful part of the problem was to find my client and confront them with the news and apologize. This was a new client, so I knew that I risked in my mistake, the chance to lose my client’s permanent trust right there in that moment. Yet, to try to cover or to try to shift blame, “I didn’t make this mistake” would only have made the situation worse.
Like most small business owners, there is only one person accountable for whether or not a project succeeds or fails. Only one person the paper trail and conversations lead back to. In this instance, I was working with a team, yet I was the project lead and so ultimately, no matter whose fault it was, I was the one responsible.
So, I faced the client with a smile, and with an honest admission as to what had happened and what the solution was. The client trusted me to follow through on the solution and it all worked out for the good. The VIPs were properly impressed and the contented client and I have now collaborated on several additional projects together with our teams.
Don’t avoid the conversation.
If at all possible, find a solution to offer with the conversation.