Learn from missteps of others to stay in game

‘Getting it right starts with getting yourself out from behind the company walls.’

It happened on Thursday after lunch as I ran up five steps to the office holding a cup of coffee. On the second step, I tripped. Instantly I knew what happened. “Call an ambulance,” I shouted. It was a complete quadriceps tendon tear. This time on the right thigh. Four months later, the surgeon’s final check up came with these words of caution, “Don’t trip.” More

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Learn from missteps of others to stay in game

‘Getting it right starts with getting yourself out from behind the company walls.’

Posted 2/20/12

It happened on Thursday after lunch as I ran up five steps to the office holding a cup of coffee. On the second step, I tripped. Instantly I knew what happened. “Call an ambulance,” I shouted. It was a complete quadriceps tendon tear. This time on the right thigh. Four months later, the surgeon’s final check up came with these words of caution, “Don’t trip.”

Those words are also good business advice. While “Don’t trip!” is a powerful message, it can be ignored, even at a time when it’s easier than ever to take a dive on the second step. When they “trip,” many businesses either don’t recover or remain badly injured.

Yet, their missteps can make us more aware of the dangers and how to avoid them. Here are examples of what to watch out for:

• Never compromise credibility. Take what Bank of America’s Global Strategy and Marketing Officer Anne Finucane said after her company pulled the plug on its $5 a month debit-card charge in the face of a nationwide revolt. “We were convinced given the environment, given the reaction, given the mood of the country, that it just wasn’t the thing to do,” she told The Boston Globe. This is pure corporate spin and should have been avoided at all cost. She should have said, “We made a huge mistake and we’re correcting it. We should have been better listeners.”

• Watch out for the details. Paychex recently sent its 401(k) plan customers an urgent notice detailing an action they needed to take by a specified date. There was one problem: they neglected to include the contact information. What does that say about the company?

• Saying it doesn’t make it so. Just as more customers are embracing self-check-out at supermarkets, other operators are rejecting it. They maintain they want to interact with their customers, particularly in the check-out line. Really? Haven’t they noticed that many cashiers are texting, talking to other employees and yawning? Haven’t they noticed the way they handle the food? All too often, righteous responses by companies are purely self-serving.

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