Extra Mile Writing

Extra Mile Writing

Mistakes in Small Business are par for the Course

Man with bare feet walking on sand

One of the things I love about business is the fact that you constantly make mistakes, dust yourself off, learn a lesson, and move on. 

While I used to be a perfectionist, luckily I eventually learnt how dangerous this was.  And I have no wish to go back to the scared, resentful perfectionist I used to be.  I constantly worried that I was losing so many years in my life because I didn’t just give things a crack. 

I love small business.  One of the reasons I love it is because there are always so many things to fix and improve on in any small business.  Mistakes and change are quite simply, a permanent part of small business and life.  Without mistakes, you can’t grow.

Graphic showing seedling growing into plant

Small business people are particularly good at forgiving both themselves and other people because of the mistakes they’ve made.  They aren’t quick to judge.  They also listen wisely and thoughtfully, because they know that we all make mistakes.  Their mind has honed in on solutions, before the other person even opens their mouth.

Indeed, there are many awesome quotes out there about the benefit of making mistakes, including this list from Good Reads

The mistakes each of us make over time really do transform us from ugly plain brown caterpillars into a beautiful butterflies.  

Because having to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off makes us stronger, wiser, more resilient and gives each of us a larger and more beautiful soul.

Monarch butterflies feeding on purple flowers

I’ve made so many embarrassing mistakes in business, but I’d like to give you a particularly awkward example from a (thankfully) previous life.

I used to work for a local government organisation that was responsible for providing waste services to residents in an area of Western Australia.  These services were largely contracted out to a private business.  The private business was a hugely successful one.  It’s the kind of business that started as a Mum and Dad operation with one truck, which then grew into a large business serving pretty much all of the region’s local governments. 

Anyway, one day I had to meet one of the managing directors of the business out at a waste facility to discuss a few matters on site.

Unfortunately for me, I love buying second hand clothes. 

On that particular day I happened to be wearing one of my favourite second hand shirts.  It’s the most beautiful shirt, with fine lines of glittery silver woven through the fabric.  Its only downfall is that the buttons like to work their way out of the button holes at the most inconvenient moments.

So, as Murphy’s Law would have it, I’m standing there trying to look professional and to remember everything I had to say with my shirt threatening to open right up.  And you guessed it, the button right at breast/cleavage level was the first to have abdicated its throne.


Let’s be clear, I’m not the sort of person who is interested in showing my naked breasts off to anyone.  Let alone to someone I worked with regularly on a professional and contract basis. 

Unfortunately the meeting had already started, so I couldn’t even look down to check on how much flesh I was showing off. 

Luckily, I was wearing a yellow safety vest that day.  Unluckily, it wasn’t the kind that has a velcro strip to keep the vest closed.  The only option I had was to hold both my arms together stiffly in order to try and hold the vest and shirt together for the length of the meeting.  I must have looked like a constipated trussed up turkey.

I also deliberately made lots of eye contact with the director, to try and keep him busy and to hopefully avoid him noticing my public nudity/exposure situation. 

Fortunately, the director is a busy person and efficient with the use of his time, so the meeting ended after no more than 10 minutes. 

Though it seriously felt like an eternity at the time.

I’m still not actually sure whether and to what extent he noticed my bare cleavage and I don’t know how bad the gaping shirt situation was from where he was standing.

Either way, I had to face him again.  Graciously, he carried on business as usual, and I simply elected to hope that I’d gotten away with it.   

And in the end, who cares? 

I got a funny story to tell and we all lived to fight another day.

Dog watching a sunrise on a deck with puppy in background