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5 Ways Your Business Can Improve by Admitting Your Mistakes

By: Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan
Posted: January 30, 2013, from the February 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

No one wants to admit it when they mess up. As a business owner, the temptation is huge. After all, your clients are paying you to get it right, so the last thing you want is for them to know that you’ve made a mistake, right?

Maybe not. When you admit to mistakes in a constructive way, you won’t damage your brand in the way you feared. In fact, you have a valuable opportunity to gain respect and loyalty.

You are not judged by how well you do when you’re good, but by how well you do when you’re bad. The fact is, everyone—and every business—makes mistakes. Denying that they happened usually exacerbates and magnifies an already-awkward situation. Following are five tips if you’re ready to face up to your spa’s mistakes and turn them into building blocks.

1. Cop to it. The sooner you admit to the error, the more you reduce the drama. Imperfection demonstrates a level of authenticity, vulnerability and humanity with which any client can identify. Plus, it’s harder to be angry with someone who says: “You’re right—I messed up.”

2. Recognize the cause. Investigate how and why an error occurred, so that the faulty procedure or process can be fixed. Ensure team members aren’t afraid to make or report mistakes. Then, brainstorm with them to make adjustments. Your skin care facility will be better for it. Real progress is often built on the backs of mistakes and the improvements they spark.

3. Aim, don’t blame. When a mistake involving your spa really can be traced to someone else, it may be easy—and temporarily satisfying—to point the finger. The truth is, however, you ultimately share the blame in the eyes of your client. Get to the bottom of what happened, and aim your focus on what you and your facility can do to prevent the situation from reoccurring.

4. Write it down. If you don’t write down what happened and how to avoid it, history is likely to repeat itself. Life goes on and, as focus inevitably shifts to other things, memory fades. It’s crucial to take the lessons learned and physically make them part of your business’s policies. This might mean writing a new procedure, checklist or sign-off sheet, or drafting a new clause in a contract or intake form. Whatever you do, write it down!

5. Resolve that it won’t reoccur. Along with your apology, ensure that it—whatever “it” was—won’t happen again. Voluntarily describe how the mistake happened, and what changes are being implemented to prevent its reoccurrence. And, most importantly, tell the client how you and your skin care facility are going to make things right. Most people will appreciate your thoughtfulness, resolve and the action you are taking. Handling an error in this way will reinforce the fact that you are, ultimately, a trustworthy business that can be relied upon.

Mistakes are bound to happen—even at an established skin care facility, and especially at newer ones. So don’t waste time and energy beating yourself up, and don’t try to create the illusion that yours is perfect. Remember, what people recall most of all is how you handle missteps and errors, not what they were. So don’t miss out on these golden opportunities to show your integrity, reduce the drama and improve the way your business operates. That is how you make mistakes right.

Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, authors of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built a Bestselling Wine (Evolve Publishing, 2013), founded the national Barefoot Wine brand.