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June is our anniversary month. We’ve certainly come a long way since I first started with a handful of Chicago companies who trusted me with their branded products requirements.

Reflecting on where I was 23 years ago and where we are today as a company, I can’t help but reminisce on my beginnings in the promotional products industry.

I think it is safe to say that at one point or another in our careers, we have made monumental mistakes that seem unrecoverable. Perhaps it was sending the wrong proposal to a client, trusting a loyal co-worker who is, in reality, after your promotion, sending a less than flattering email about your boss, directly to your boss, or adding an extra zero to your order of 100 items and receiving 1000 non-returnable, non-refundable, customized client gifts. The unfortunate truth is that we are all guilty of work-related

mistakes, some of which emotionally scar us for the remainder of our careers.

Although we literally want to crawl in a hole and hide at these moments, there can be something meaningful about these experiences that make us more successful as professionals.  I personally had one of these experiences as a very young, extremely green employee with my first company post-college.

How Attention To Detail Became Ingrained In Our Company Culture

I was working for a Promotional Sales company as a sales representative, and I had just been assigned to one of our top existing clients.

They were in need of 100 leather portfolios with the company name and address inscribed. In an attempt to demonstrate my lightning speed order fulfillment skills to my boss, I quickly priced the item with various vendors, obtained approval from the client, entered all of the required ordering information and hit “SEND” without hesitation or review.

I remember thinking to myself, “This is a piece of cake.” I was so pleased with myself that I scurried into my boss’s office to let him know that everything was taken care of. Needless to say, my boss was very pleased with my efficiency and asked if I had checked and rechecked the order details. My reply……. “Absolutely.” I walked around the office like I owned the place, until 5 days later when I was called into my boss’s office.

Much to my dismay, my highly efficient, easily processed order of 100 leather portfolios, arrived on time at my client’s headquarters with the street name “Touhy” spelled “Toughy” on each and every item. Suddenly, I felt as if I had been demoted from the king of the world to pond scum. Thankfully, my boss was the understanding type with a great sense of humor. The next day as I entered my office, there hung a plaque on my wall with the words “TOUGHY IS NOT TOUHY!.”  I guess I had that one coming! Filled with gratitude for having a boss with an amazing perspective and patience, I made the decision that I would never make a mistake of this nature ever again.

 

Meaningful Mistake

In my instance, attention to detail was the lesson that I would carry with me throughout my entire career. In my particular industry, careless errors result in unhappy customers, loss of revenue and a lack of repeat business.

Although my mistake as a young sales representative was one that I still have nightmares about to this day, the epiphany that resulted from that experience was extremely meaningful. I am certainly not suggesting that you should be careless and make mistakes so that you can walk away with a career-altering lesson.

However, if you have made mistakes in the past, or you face mishaps in the future, rather than torturing yourself with guilt, do your best to clean up the mess you made and then give some serious thought as to how the experience can benefit your performance in the future. Attempt to shift your perspective from the negative to the positive.

I can confidently say that my meaningful mistake changed the course of my career and I am reminded of it every day by the customized plaque, ordered with great accuracy and attention to detail that hangs proudly in my office. Instead of looking at the disaster before you as a mind-blowing blunder, take a step back and reflect on the possibility that it could be your career’s most meaningful mistake.