I have the privilege to serve on a board with two guys that started their own business from scratch and grown it to the point where it's knocking on the door of the FTSE 100. Start-ups don't get much more successful than that and they're collectively worth more than a billion pounds.
In business, sometimes it feels like I'm over-run with people trying to sell me things. Nowadays this includes increasing numbers of professionals. It's not just accountants and lawyers, there's sales and PR advisers, IT companies, marketing and strategy consultants. Name the business function and there are the guns touting for hire.
I was at UPS's worldwide headquarters in Georgia, USA. One by one the people I was meeting trooped in and seemed to be nudging one another and laughing. "He's the one" was the gist of what they were saying. I was a bit puzzled, but eventually one of them let me in on the secret. We had just signed a partnership agreement with UPS, but unfortunately my Finance Director had taken the instruction to "Fedex it to them" a little too literally. Using their bitterest rival to return our worldwide strategic agreement was a bit of a faux pas.
In the end, it was a good laugh and following an apology it had no impact on our business relationship. It does illustrate the point though that we all make mistakes, so I thought I would try and share a few thoughts on how I have tried to recover from mine.
Many years ago I finally made it onto the board of the company I worked for then. The board collectively submitted a bid for our business as it was being privatised by the government. Unfortunately the bid was unsuccessful and the business was sold to others. However, before I received my marching orders I did get a chance to see how the predators that had bought us operated. Some aspects of this have remained with me ever since.
The Internet has come a long way since the earliest sites offering one-way content delivery. Nowadays the successful online marketer will generally provide some means for visitors to interact with their web site, whether by posting reviews, linking to their social network account, or something more creative.