3 Ways Small Business Owners Can Learn More from their Mistakes

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Mistakes happen, it’s simply a fact of life. What differs from case to case is the severity of the mistake, and what lessons they are able to loan to business owners going forwards. It’s important that every time something goes wrong within your business that you take the time to fully understand what caused the error and what ways you could have prevented it so that down the road you don’t make the same mistake twice. In the case of a particularly bad mess-up, business owners may not want to revisit the experience enough to properly get an understanding of what happened, yet it its imperative that they break down the problem in the same way that they would in any other case. In order to ensure that you really learn from your mistakes and extract the most information that you can from negative circumstances, here are three tips for processing failures that will allow you to think about them in the most productive way possible.

Step 1) Get over it. You messed up, and now you are most likely upset, potentially even extremely distraught. The first step to getting value out of your problem and turning the situation around is getting over your disappointment. Only by looking at the situation with a clear head will you truly be able to identify what went wrong impartially. The biggest mistake that business owners make when a problem sets them back is thinking about the situation from the perspective of having lost something that they would have had in the future, as opposed to regrouping their thoughts and planning from the situation at hand as if it was a new beginning. Let yourself cool down, then take stock of the situation. What assets do you still have to work with? Is there any way you can adapt your strategy to make up for lost productivity? What can you put on hold while you fix what went wrong? These are they types of questions that need to be answered from a place of calmness and impartiality.

Step 2) Identify what went wrong, and why. While identifying the components that caused the problem requires that you loan attention to the mechanics of whatever problem has presented itself, you should also be thinking about larger issues that allowed the issue to manifest. In order to make sure that the problem won’t happen again, you must trace it as far as possible. For example, a malfunction of an important machine might be superficially caused by a blockage in an important valve, but upon closer inspection you may find signs that the machine has been used improperly, leading to the eventual issue. Fixing the valve is the first step towards coming away from the issue. The second might be making sure that your employees get more training on what constitutes proper equipment use in order to ensure the conditions that created the problem don’t happen again.

Step 3) Make it better than it was before. The benefit of identifying constraints that have set you back is that you can often take the fixes you implement and use them as the starting point for designing systems that are better than what you started with. An area where a problem has occurred will usually be an area where you can stand to improve the most, as issues tend to accumulate in areas of small businesses that are neglected. Once you turn your attention to a problem area within your business, you should strive to not only fix your problem but to leave things in a better state than you left them. A good way to gather ideas you can use to improve is through speaking with employees involved in the negative situations and asking them what they feel could have prevented the issues. What could you give them that would help them do their jobs better. The benefit of asking employees for feedback in this way is twofold, as you stand to get some useful perspective, and listening to employee feedback and implementing their suggestions can help to improve morale, which is particularly important when things go wrong.

Photo Credit to rchris7702 on Flickr

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