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4 Steps to Deal with Business Mistakes from Iron Man

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4 Steps to Deal with Business Mistakes from Iron Man


Last weekend Iron Man 3 had the second biggest opening weekend box office tally of all time. We saw the movie on Friday, as is the SEE SPOT tradition, and enjoyed it immensely. It’s a great kickoff to the summer blockbuster season and an excellent first entry for. Now, despite our fanboy glee over the entire experience, we couldn’t help but think we had also just been given a business and marketing lesson disguised as an action flick. Here’s a spoiler-free overview of the film to set the baseline for our discussion. Our hero, Tony Stark, who has just confronted people from his past that felt wronged by him and made revenge their mission in life, narrates the movie. The actions of these new competitors cost Tony his property, his girlfriend and caused him to be completely disconnected from his business and life. Throughout the film, he’s forced to go back to basics to solve the challenges these rivals present to him and use the intellect that made him a superhero from the beginning. In the end, he emerges stronger, more resolute and with fewer competitors. So how do Iron Man’s trials and tribulations apply to small business owners?

Iron Man Lesson #1: Any Mistake Can Be Fixed

While you may not have international terrorists or genetically enhanced soldiers gunning for you, as a business owner, you know mistakes are part of the game. Business Coach Dan Miller says that he doesn’t trust someone who claims to have never failed in business. We couldn’t agree more. Clients come to us all the time wondering how they’ll get past a failure of marketing, operations or executive decision-making, but it can be done. Don’t wallow in the mistake or attempt to make any number of knee jerk corrections to remedy the situation. Unless cash is literally flying out your door or going up in smoke you have enough time to make a thoughtful decision on a solution. Several years ago, one of our industrial clients realized that the latest builds of their bestselling product had manufacturing flaws that could lead to failures in an unknown percentage of the current units in the market. They came to SEE SPOT to figure out how to deal with the problem. Our first meeting with them began with Iron Man Lesson #2.

Iron Man Lesson #2: Talk It Out

When they come to us with problems, we advise every one of our clients to take a step back and say, if the mistake or issue hadn’t happened, what would I be doing now to run or market my business? This question helps them to not lose sight of their long term goal and begin to visualize how their story and strategy can provide them with a roadmap back to their original plan. Also during these discussions, we begin gathering information that will ultimately help create a successful solution. For our industrial client, those discussions led us to the fact that the unknown percentage could run as high as 80% of all units in the market and the realization that this issue could be as serious for their business as the Tylenol cyanide scare in the early 80s. To solve an issue of this magnitude, we moved on to Lesson #3. Iron Man

Lesson #3: Get Creative to Solve Problems

At this point, no idea is a bad idea as long as it fits the strategy and story of the business. Depending on the sensitivity of the issue and the preferences of the client, we recommend bringing in as many different voices from all levels of the organization as possible. Getting other perspectives from trusted advisors from outside organization, even vendors or clients, can also be helpful. Each brings a unique view of the situation and may have a key piece of information that leads to the ultimate solution. With an issue as serious as our client’s, we discussed many options ranging from a total recall to doing nothing unless customers could prove their units failed. Working with members of their Manufacturing, Sales, Finance and Marketing teams, we determined that a partial recall was the most on-strategy and cost-effective solution for the brand. Thanks to a member of the Manufacturing team, a sampling and testing plan was developed and we worked with internal and customer teams to not only manage the communications but also the replacement program. Once the program was underway, we moved on to Lesson #4.

Iron Man Lesson #4: Learn from the Mistake

Victorious at the end of the movie, Tony Stark has a renewed sense of understanding and commitment to his roles in his relationship, business and the superhero world. He takes on the laborious process of repairing lives and technology that were damaged by his earlier bravado and callousness. The same is necessary for small business owners. Fixing the cause of the mistake and repairing the damage may take time, and the clean up is rarely pretty, but the long-term benefits can far exceed the costs. Ultimately, our client was able to address the manufacturing issue and began repairing the real and perceived damage to their brand with a clear message and proactive replacement program. Today that client is very successful and has launched several new products pushing their industry and technology forward. Does your business need help fixing past mistakes in your business? SEE SPOT can help. Click to send us a note and one of our strategists will be happy to follow up with you.



Image copyright Disney/Marvel.

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