Most mistakes that we make in the normal course of business are not killers. And that’s a good thing of course. If most of the mistakes we made were killers, we wouldn’t be around to learn from them.
As a matter of fact, since most of our mistakes (squids) are not killers, our survival lulls us into a sense of complacency and acceptance. We make a mistake and we think, “well, the last mistake/series of mistakes didn’t hurt us all that much, so let’s just put this behind us as fast as we can and get on with the rest of our lives.”
That’s a dangerous mindset and one of the reasons why I wrote Killer Squids. Your complacency/accepting mindset of your mistakes can be fatal in the long term. As Bob Newhart would say, “Stop it!”
But some mistakes can kill you. Some mistakes are so big and so bad and the consequences so dire…there are Killer Squids.
I extended credit to a friend who was starting a business. Over the objections of my long-suffering wife, I allowed him to rack up bills of $20,000. When his house of cards came crashing down, we were stuck with big paper bills and labor costs. This was not a killer squid, but it could have been. The loss was great enough that it jeopardized our ability to stay in business.
My takeaways from this Squid?
- Listen to your wife.
- Don’t let friendship cloud your judgment when it comes to extending credit.
- Don’t extend too much credit to start-ups.
- Don’t let anyone go past a pre-determined amount of credit. Limit your potential losses.
- Have your credit policies in place before you encounter a problem.
- Know your policies and stick to them no matter what.
These are the lessons I learned (I hope).
This was not a Killer Squid, but it could have been. And there are mistakes that you can make that will kill your business, or your job.
I remember well a Killer Squid that took out a client of mine. Sad.
It was a big project for us; the client requested a bid for scanning and printing a 500 page book; the quantity was 2000. We won the bid and started scanning the pages. Early on in the scanning process, our production expert came to me and said, “hey Kevin, this project is not 500 pages…it’s 500 sheets, front and back. It’s actually 1000 pages.
Uh oh. Our client did not know the difference between pages and sheets. Of course when you are dealing with a 1,000 page book vs a 500 page book, the price is going to go up, a lot.
We quickly communicated the problem and a new quote back to our client, and then it went quiet. Real quiet. Crickets.
But the deadline was fast approaching, and still we heard nothing. We knew our price was good and we were prepared to proceed (not many other printers could knock this job out fast enough), and our client was in a bad situation. And so, our client authorized us to proceed.
We finished the project on time and on the newly approved budget, but our client lost her job. Painful. Killer Squid.
- Double check your specifications.
- Understand the jargon of the industry.
- Slow down and think through ramifications of not understanding all the specs before you begin.