By Michael Gunther

No, I’m not referring to the Brittany Spears song, but to a situation that happened in my business recently. We are in the beginning stages of launching a nationwide marketing campaign for our WorkTraits communication and conflict resolution tool, and we decided to reach out to our LinkedIn connections through an email campaign. Between all the members of our team, we are connected to more than 2,000 people, and we were each sending a personal email to let them know about this exciting transition in our business. We wanted to introduce the product, get their feedback, and ask them to forward the email to anyone they knew who might be interested in this management tool.

After creating the lists, refining the email content, testing the links, etc. we sent my email. We had an amazing 50%+ open rate, but weren’t receiving any direct replies. That was until one of my clients emailed me that the reply function wasn’t working properly and he received an error message when he tried to respond.

Ugh! I thought, you have one chance to get in front of this audience and yet, no one was able to respond back. I soon received a few other clients informing me of the same issue. (Thank goodness they cared enough to inform us). We quickly diagnosed the issue—my email address was incorrect in the marketing campaign tool. We felt we had to act quickly and debated, do we just resend the email with the corrected email address, or do we send an email with some other message? We decided, let’s admit the error and resend the email, but with an “Oops” message in the subject line and a brief sentence explaining the error.

Out went the second email, and surprisingly, not only did it get nearly the same open rate, but when we combined the two campaigns, we actually ended up having a 75% unique open rate overall! In addition, we immediately received direct responses with interest in WorkTraits. Within a week, we not only had people expressing interest in the product for their businesses, but we’d also obtained leads for resellers and potential new clients. All the recipients were responding to the ‘Oops’ email—was it because people were curious what our ‘Oops’ entailed?  Was the ‘Oops’ subject line admitting our mistake more attention grabbing? Did people just miss the first email and open the second?

We will probably never know the true answers to these questions, but the lesson learned was that when a crisis presents itself there is no time for blame or rehashing what went wrong or wondering what all the lost opportunity is going to cost you. Instead, you have to act quickly, admit what happened, and come up with a new strategy to resolve the situation.

This got me thinking of other times errors or mistakes have happened. How often do we spend time playing the blame game and asking who made the mistake—rehashing the situation until it is beaten to death. This approach doesn’t really resolve anything. People do not intentionally make mistakes, and most times they are really trying to do a good job.

Mistakes happen—I know I could write a book about the mistakes I’ve made over my career. I think the question we should ask ourselves when mistakes happen is, is our response appropriate? Was the mistake made intentionally? Probably not. Is there a solution we can implement to resolve the issue? Most likely. Can we learn from this situation? Most definitely. Can we share the learning experience with others on the team so they can learn from it as well? You bet.

Bottom Line

I had a mentor many years ago tell me that if I was not making mistakes and learning from them, I probably was not making decisions, and thus, I probably was not leading. He said true leaders are constantly making decisions and know that if they are not getting the results they want, they learn from their experiences and make a new decision to change the course.

So, react quickly and react smartly. Sometimes admitting the mistake and solving it quickly will benefit you more than hurt you.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at

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