Learning from Other People’s Mistakes

A powerful lesson I learned a few years ago was to learn from other people’s mistakes as well as my own.  The power in this is that if we have an incorrect attitude, behaviour or technique then it is often easier to spot the flaw in other people first and then correct ourselves. 

I was reminded of this lesson last week at a networking lunch.  

I was seated with some people across from me when a gentleman took the seat next to my right.  As he was sitting down, he passed me his business card.  This to me seemed very presumptive and slightly rude.  He hadn’t even introduced himself at this point.  While I would not swap business cards this early in an exchange, it did get me to reflect on the way I pass them.

After the event, I decided that I should only pass business cards when the moment in the exchange felt right and I thought it would be useful.  I think I had recently fallen into the trap of thinking it polite to exchange business cards and almost always did after a few minutes of conversation.

My second pause for thought came when I looked at his business card.  He was the Director of a marketing company, like myself, and it was his list of services that got me thinking.  Here is the list from the back of his card:

  • Design
  • Creative
  • PR
  • Databases
  • Social Media
  • Web Site
  • SEO
  • Sales Leads Generation
  • Strategy
  • E-marketing
  • Branding

I had to stop myself from asking “so which of these are you actually good at?”.  This is a very long list of diverse services spanning from artistic design to technical programming skills.  I found it pretty much destroyed any confidence that I would have placed in his company.

His company could have delivered parts of this offering in-house and then out-sourced the rest and done a good job at it all.  But my confidence was shaken by the length and breadth of this list and, as I’ve covered before, you buy from the company you have the most confidence in.

What I learned from this was that I needed to simplify my own offering.  While I do not cover such a wide range, it was clear that I should focus on the key things I do namely creating marketing strategies, plans and cookbooks (a weekly marketing “to-do” list) and managing their implementation.

I’ve dubbed myself the Marketing Engineer and I think this fits.  I know how things work and put the plans together and manage the project but I do not attach every wheel or tighten every nut and bolt.

My thought for this week is look at what other business people are doing which has a negative impact on you.  Then look to see what you can take from this.  Of course, the flip side of this works very well- what do others do that has a positive impact on you and how can you adopt this attitude, behaviour or technique.  

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