I’m not sure if I should share this story.
When you go to a company’s website, you expect to read nothing but good news.
The copy is written to convince you that there is nobody better to solve your problem, ease your pain or boost your bottom line.
There are sections filled with glowing reviews and heartfelt testimonials.
But we all know that no business is perfect.
Every company makes mistakes, but most companies don’t want to talk about them.
Axim Solutions isn’t like most companies.
I want to tell you a true story about Axim’s mistake.
Why share the painful details of how we failed?
Because the experience taught us three valuable lessons that we will never forget.
LESSON ONE: Doublecheck Your Ego
Greek mythology is full of stories of mortals who get humbled by the gods.
Lots of terrible things happen when ordinary men and women get too full of themselves.
Arachne boasts that she’s a better weaver than Athena, so the goddess of arts and crafts turns her competition into a spider.
Icarus thinks he can fly like the gods but gets too close to the sun and plunges to his death.
Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gets a punishment from Zeus that’s too horrifying to describe. Let’s just say it’s a nasty combination of Groundhog Day and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Apparently, the Greek gods weren’t big on leniency or second chances.
The endings were never happy, but the message was clear.
Know your place. Know your limits. Keep that ego in check.
My client Charlie’s business website needed some work that was beyond the scope of what his current team could handle. We literally got a call from his team leader saying “this problem is waay beyond my pay grade” when he recommended that Charlie speak with us.
Charlie described the project and we didn’t have to think twice (even though I should have).
We were confident.
His old site was going to be shut down and we needed to migrate his new site to one of our servers.
“We can do that,” I said. “Of course we can do that. I’ve done that kind of thing plenty of times.”
Thinking back, I should have noticed that the needle on my self-confidence meter was bouncing into the red.
It was moving past the bright orange of “overconfident” and into the danger zone of “cocky.”
In my defense, I understood the challenge. I thought, “Piece of cake. No problem. Relax, Charlie… WE GOT THIS.”
Of course, we didn’t have it.
Because when you crank that self-confidence dial all the way up to 11, it’s hard to hear the voice inside your head that reminds you not to assume anything.
That voice usually makes sense.
For Icarus, that little voice was his dad telling him that the heat from the sun would melt the wax holding together the feathers on his big fake wings.
For Prometheus, it was probably one of his friends saying, “You know what? Maybe don’t steal from a GOD who can shoot lightning bolts.”
In my case, that voice was telling me to make sure to get client approval before hitting the LAUNCH button.
I ignored the voice and what followed was a disaster.
The new site was live, but the links didn’t function. None of them!
Our mistake shut down Charlie’s site for a few days.
No traffic. Zero orders. Complete blackout.
You can imagine that any business owner who relies completely on his website would not be pleased.
Charlie was understandably furious. He yelled. Shared some four-letter words.
It was not the kind of conversation I wanted to have with one of Axim’s first clients.
And even though we worked non-stop to get things back up and running within 72 hours, the damage had already been done.
Now we had to figure out how to clean up our mess.
LESSON TWO: Do What It Takes to Make It Right
The way you fix a website issue is one line of code at a time.
You roll up your sleeves, brew some coffee and get to it.
Once we knew what was wrong, repairing the issue was straightforward.
Less clear was how we would restore Charlie’s trust in us as a company. For starters, there was the matter of invoicing – I never invoiced Charlie for the job.
Charlie, being a gentleman, sent over a check for the agreed upon amount anyway.
I decided that it was worth more to have a satisfied client. So, I returned the check.
Then, I hired someone to deliver him a gift, along with another round of sincere apologies.
A few months after the incident, Charlie invited us to lunch.
We made amends, broke bread and ordered a slice of humble pie for dessert.
Thankfully, he was understanding.
“We started out rough,” he said. “But everything has gone smoothly since.”
We ended up keeping Charlie as a client from that point on … until he decided to close his business.
LESSON THREE: Never Forget What’s At Stake
There’s something else you need to know about this story.
This was NOT about a company who did a bad job on a website or software solution.
Our mistake was about miscommunication. It was about information falling through the cracks. It was about experiencing the answer to the age-old question, “Do you know what happens when you assume?”
Axim’s lead solutions architect wanted to make that clear, and I totally understand where he’s coming from. Our mistake was not a technical one.
All of the “crossed wires” happened outside of the computer.
Our biggest mistake taught us a lesson about the importance of process.
Screwing up will make you feel humble in a hurry. But when it comes to the website and software work we do for our clients, I’m not too proud to brag.
We do great work.
And now we go to great lengths to make sure that our great work… always works!
Ever since the Charlie incident, we’ve never flipped a switch without client approval. We’ve never launched without a test drive.
The result has been a 100% drop in client F-bombs and apology gifts.
The good news for Axim is that we learned our lesson early and got it out of the way. It helped reinforce the idea that many of the websites and software our clients depend on are more than just technical add-ons.
They are the beating hearts of small businesses. They generate revenue and are essential to a company’s survival.
Surgeons don’t do heart transplants without making sure that the new heart works before taking the patient off life support. That’s why we’ll never transplant a website without making sure that the beat goes on.
I know what we do isn’t life and death, but it feels awfully close.
And when it comes to humbling lessons, I got off lucky.
I didn’t plummet from the stratosphere like Icarus.
It wasn’t fun, but we’re glad it happened.
It made Axim Solutions a better company and forever changed the way we think about our clients, the work we do for them and how much it matters to get things right the first time.