When I came up with this $1 million challenge, I knew that I wanted honesty and transparency to be at the core of everything I do in the next year. I wanted everyone who follows this journey to see the highs and the lows.
Well,a couple weeks ago, I had my first real test of this principle. Let’s call it a trial by fire.
Here’s What Happened…
The week before Thanksgiving, we sent out an email to let our contacts know about a new SEO tool that our agency is offering for free. It simply tells users how to fix and improve their website. What they do with that information is up to them—whether that means coming to us for help or making the changes themselves.
The email list was made up of the LinkedIn contact list of a handful of our key team members, including myself. We exported them to Excel and had them sorted to eliminate duplicates.
Now, when you sort a list in Excel, you can either sort a specific column or you can expand the selection to include the adjacent columns so all the information stays together. Well, guess what happened with my list… That's right. In the sorting process, my contacts' names and emails were all rearranged and mismatched, so when my contacts—all 40,600—received their email, they were greeted with the wrong name.
I’ve received a few responses expressing disappointment, which is understandable. This is not something I take lightly. As someone who takes pride in every detail of the work I put out, a mistake like this feels like a real gut punch.
Listening to My Instincts
When we first discovered the mistake, I received a lot of advice concerning how we should handle it—everything from hiring a PR person to shifting the blame elsewhere. Both of these options, however, directly contradict my core values. I'm not looking to bullshit or spin this misstep to make me look better. It's just not who I am.
In the past, I've let others dictate the way I live my life, and I've never been happy with the results. If I could offer only one piece of advice to those of you following me on this journey, it would be to listen to and trust yourself. Over the years, I’ve developed the self-awareness to know when I need to step away from all the other voices to focus on my own.
Don't get me wrong. It's important to get input from the people around you, but sometimes, you just need to make the decision for yourself. At the end of the day, this mistake didn't really impact the agency at large. It was my personal brand that took a beating, so it's up to me to handle it.
I knew that I needed to step back for a minute and listen to my instincts, so that’s what I did last Friday. After some time to myself, I’ve decided upon a few things I want to say.
First of all, I want to say that I take full responsibility for the mistake. When a something happens on my watch, I take responsibility. Period. There’s no passing the buck. I should have ensured that there was a final review process in place that could have prevented it.
Second, I want to focus on using this mistake as a learning opportunity. I'm currently working on putting a process in place to serve as a double check before any mass emails like this one are sent out.
To tell you the truth, I'm kind of happy this happened, and if it had to happen to anyone in the organization, I'm thrilled it happened to me. This mistake is a perfect demonstration of what the next year is all about. I promised to show you the highs and the lows. I promised you that there would be opportunity in failure.
While this is certainly a low point, I want to show you the value in it. At the end of the day, I can’t change what happened, but I can choose how I want to respond. That's the real lesson here.