Around this time last year, I dedicated my editor’s note (in the print edition of Anthill Magazine) to the re-telling of one of Anthill’s many business blunders.
It was the sort of forehead-slapping, groan-inducing error that you think (at the time) you’ll laugh about later. It was such a simple mistake that you could almost call it an oversight.
So what did we do? What was our mistake?
In short, we forgot to renew our domain name.
The reminder arrived, along with a small pile of fraudulent renewal letters (the way that it is with respect to most publicly available snippets of private information these days). The legitimate letter was tossed away with the junk letters and the matter was overlooked.
‘But what about the email reminder?’ you might reasonably ask. Anthill was set-up while I was working for another company and I can only assume that the reminder was sent to a now defunct email address at my place of previous employment (but that’s a story for another day).
It was a simple mistake, a head-slapping, groan-inducing, something-to-laugh-about-later, insignificant error, right? Right!?
Within days our website disappeared, only to be replaced by a message stating quite bluntly that our domain had expired and was now available for purchase. And this was the message that greeted Anthill web-visitors for the next five days (an entire working week).
So, what was the fallout from this mini business disaster?
Firstly, we lost a chunk of subscription revenue (many Anthill subscriptions are purchased online). Secondly, we raised the ire of our web advertisers for not fulfilling our obligations. And thirdly, I can only assume that we disappointed the spectrum of people who frequent our website.
But the real damage was done to our credibility.
Many visitors assumed that we had gone belly-up. Magazine publishing is a precarious game at the best of times. The burden of feasibility is on publishers, particular within advertising circles, because most people know that the mortality rate among new magazines is extremely high.
However, like all hard-working business operators, we pressed on, fuelled by the scepticism of the doubting Thomas’s, dogmatically determined to prove our critics wrong. We also caught a glimpse of the goodwill Anthill has fostered since its inception, and became energised by the phone calls and emails of concern from our more enthusiastic readers.
Ultimately, of course, we came out stronger, with better systems, better reader relationships and the knowledge that most ‘business disasters’ can be overcome.
Making mistakes is all part of business. We never like to admit it. But it is often the fallout from mistakes that initiate growth and help us to excel.
We’ll be exploring this oft neglected area of business in our Aug/Sep edition.
This is our invitation to you. Why not regale us with your groan-inducing business follies? The best will be published in our Aug/Sep edition. Your disaster can be simple (“I forgot to put ink in the fax and lost a massive purchase order.”) to the complex (“We tried to launch bottled water into Alaska using a refrigerated truck, instead of a heated one, and discovered that it is, in fact, very hard to sell ice to the Eskimos.”).
We have but one simple request… Please, no PR agents allowed. We only want to hear from genuine business owners with genuine business disaster stories.
Remember, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.