May 01, 2018

When Things Don't Go Well

By: Polly Yakovich


So far, it's been a humbling week. And it's only Tuesday.

We're coming off a few banner weeks as a company, so it was kismet. We were due for a bump in the road.

It's true that you can learn more when things aren't going well than when they are. And the way we've weathered a rough couple days makes me proud of how we've grown as a company and how much more we know each month about who we are.  

Here are five things to do when things don't go well (we're leaning into these this week):

1. Be Transparent

Sometimes you f*** up. Sometimes things just don't really work. Campaigns fail. Clients hate the work and send you back to the drawing board. Be honest when this happens. Not only can clients sniff out when you're hedging or hiding, but it also builds trust. And it's easier. You may think that you'll lose the client. Really they're more likely to respect you. If they don't accept any mistakes and leave, you're probably better off without them.

2. Reinforce Your Brand & Personal Promises

Who you are and how you interact with people when the conversations get hard is what builds and reinforces your brand promise. Make sure that you're not sacrificing short term gains (time, money) for long-term costs (your reputation). Lean in. Make the hard call. Have the conversation. Don't send an email, pick up the phone.


In past roles when things went wrong, I noticed that people would suddenly get very busy. They'd be talking a lot, and explaining what happened, making excuses, calling vendors, doing all the things. But they didn't really stop to listen. Your client is frustrated, or mad, or disappointed, or doesn't feel heard. Listen to them. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about how they feel. Not only is this a better human interaction, but it will help you learn how to do things better.

4. Fix It

You need to fix whatever went wrong. Most clients will let you. Especially the ones you want to keep. It might even help your relationship. This might cost you, but it's worth it (see #2). Don't rush. Assess the real timeline so you can step back from the problem. Invite someone new into the conversation to help you see where things went wrong. Make a plan, get the client on board, and execute it. Put your best people on it. Sometimes a personnel switch is needed to help you and the client both start fresh.

5. Stay The Course

When you know who you are, and where you're going, bumps in the road should not derail you. They should reinforce your values, and help you shake out the kinks in your system. Thank your clients for helping you learn. And mean it.

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