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Learning from mistakes: smart businesses learn from others


This short guide outlines several ways in which you can strengthen your business by learning from mistakes already made by other businesses.

There is an old adage, assigned to some historical figures but surely older than them, that suggests ‘the wise man learns from the mistakes of others.’ Of course, like most truth worth repeating, this is hardly only applicable in this one context. In fact, the smart and wise business learns from the mistakes of those in the same industry, too, and perhaps even those further afield.

This is because the personal cost of making a business mistake can sometimes haunt your firm for years, and so in learning from mistakes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let us iterate, however, that no business will avoid making mistakes forever. It’s simply impossible to avoid a blunder from time to time, and if you can, it just shows that you’re not being innovative enough, or trying enough in your pursuit for growth. Playing it safe can come with its own risks.

Learning from mistakes of other businesses: the 7 most common

That said, what does this adage of learning from mistakes look like in practicality? How should it inform your leadership? Most weary adults know, after all, that platitudes aren’t much good for anything. It’s in this article we hope to address that very important question. All the 7 common mistakes below are easy to find examples for in any of the business news papges — in stories that the respective businesses named wish weren’t published. We will focus here on learning from mistakes in each of these situations.

Social faux-pas

That’s right, businesses can (and do!) stumble upon a social faux-pas from time to time. Unfortunately, when this is noticed, the penalty for being a little clumsy can mean worldwide ridicule thanks to humble, not-at-all toxic apps like Twitter.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for you to stumble upon this. A misreading of a hashtag, or an inability to cover all social basis when putting out promotional material, all of this can lead to harsh results. This keeps you on your toes, and that should be a good thing, provided it doesn’t completely impede your promotion. Furthermore, it can be that your business is in line to be ridiculed from a disgruntled customer, and so nothing but the most strict professionalism is required. It’s important to train your staff in this regard, especially those who directly manage your social media accounts.

Furthermore, your business should curate a social media policy advising how staff should behave in these public settings. For instance, if you find that one of your managers enjoys fighting against political agitators on Twitter, yet has his job role and position in pride of place within his bio, it’s important to discourage that behavior. These efforts can help you avoid the unwanted but oh-so-possible social faux-pas online.

Finally, we would recommend that you really research just how your advertising campaign may be seen. Something that seems tongue-in-cheek can be read as plain offensive. It’s up to you if you wish to take that risk. Just understand what those outcomes could be.

Security faults

Great security is not an option if running a business, it is the required standard. This means not only using the best tools to keep you safe (such as VPN’s and IT managed security updates), but it also means ensuring your staff are trained and able to ensure they comply with your security regulations as easily as possible.

This can mean using mobile management tools to curate the remote devices you allow staff. It could mean asking them to change their password every two months. You may set stringent permissions for cloud access to sensitive files to ensure only you and your partners are able to access business-critical information.

Security faults can come from many angles. Often, they form from user error. If you fail to update your servers, for instance, you’ll find that ‘hackers’ – for want of a better term, are able to find exploits in your security and this may not be as detectable as you had hoped.

We would recommend that you don’t become a statistic. Invest in your security infrastructure as a key aspect of learning from mistakes made by others. Make sure your staff are trained in, and understand their responsibilities. Operate a ‘no stupid question’ policy when it comes to this. Keep staff accountable when they fail to follow the correct procedure. Security faults can be debilitating, and no leader has time for that. Best to prevent rather than cure.

Lack of futureproofing

We don’t need to tell you that the years move quickly. You likely understand that, perhaps even more lucidly, on your own.

This adds perceptual reasoning for future-proofing your firm. Now, more than ever, we understand that the future is right around the corner. It always is. That means businesses can and do find themselves outdated, or running outdated efforts, or even marketing to the market of ‘last year’ through outdated terms. You need only see what famous meme a business has co-opted for their marketing to see how many months out of date they are with the cultural conversation. It happens all the time.

So – how can you ensure you’re futureproofed well? Well, it’s more than a cultural issue. We would consider businesses that have no web presence or social media profile culturally irrelevant, and lacking from a marketing perspective. But it’s true that the infrastructure of your firm may need updating, too. For instance, taking the time to use a free SIP trunk trial can help you understand how IP telecom functionalities are essential in the modern-day, helping you establish international connectivity through a simple, effective network. Without this, you’re sure to be dragging in the past.

Technical issues

There are some technical issues that are simply unacceptable in 2020. You shouldn’t abide by them. For instance, if you find that the materials that lace your building, such as the siding in your office block, are combining to limit cell phone connectivity, it may be that purchasing a signal booster is the right investment to make.

It’s all about ensuring that your staff workflow isn’t impeded. If they have to moan about the printer being out of toner, if the fax machine isn’t working, if your site is regularly down for maintenance, if your social media manager needs three levels of approval before putting anything out there, then it could be your business is dysfunctional on several micro-levels, which add up to a certain macro-level in aggregate.

You can be sure that many offices are still lagging in the past like this. Don’t be like them. Be a business of the future by gearing your infrastructure in the best possible manner. Consider it as an impossibility, as if you were expecting your staff to return without Covid measures in place. This can help you understand what approach to take, and how to move forward with confidence.

Branding inconsistencies

Branding inconsistencies are important to work on. You’d be surprised how many businesses get this wrong in 2020. If your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles have different aesthetics or profile pictures, it could be that your audience is confused when switching between them.  If you offer Twitter support for your audience, but not Facebook instant DM’s, you should telegraph this plainly so that people aren’t messaging your Facebook page hoping for some kind of response.

Worse, if you move your brand to a new name but still have legacy inconsistencies in how your account handling works, or in the substructure of your front-facing data management, customers will notice. Don’t let them notice for you. Branding inconsistencies are sometimes forgivable, but for the most part they show a business that hasn’t thought every detail through. That can be a problem for more aware businesses.

Toxic workplace cultures

Toxic workplace cultures are worth considering when learning from mistakes made by other businesses, and protecting against. They can take root and form without you realizing, as people who are willingly toxic hardly make a public show of it. This might involve harassment, bullying, or outright abuse, and it can develop from the bottom of your firm, right to the top.

Implementing essential reporting measures, anonymously, and ensuring that you have accountability contingencies alongside a no-tolerance policy is a good place to start. Toxic workplace culture must not be allowed to continue. It must not be permitted to even begin. For this reason, rededicating your efforts to addressing problems is essential.

Ignoring consumer confidence

At a time like this, it’s essential to consider consumer confidence and how you can improve it. Why should people invest in your firm, or buy your products, or subscribe to your premium features when they may have had financial difficulty in the primary year of Covid-19? It’s a good question to ask, because sometimes in learning from mistakes made by others, we can realize how entitled our marketing is.

It might be that you wish to offer more as a firm. For instance, Deliveroo, Uber-Eats competitor, is offering free delivery on orders above a certain figure. This shows that they have, in an effort to drum up business, forgone one of their main costs. What concessions can you make? How can you be relevant to the times, and also considerate of your audience’s needs? You’d be surprised how this often contrary wisdom can help a business prosper.


With this advice, we hope you understand that when it comes to learning from mistakes, the wise business learns from those around them, and implements solutions to step around them. We wish you the best of luck in managing these expectations.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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