Character Revealed

“No good deed goes unpunished.” That’s what my client said as he called to tell me he’d received his thousand promotional books in the nick of time last week. Unfortunately, he said, there was a typo so he couldn’t use the books for his meeting as planned.

My stomach hurt. We had turned this 12-page book around in less than six weeks from creation to production – an almost impossible feat. It was leather bound and beautiful. It should have been perfect. We had proofed the book – more than once. My client and his team had proofed the book. None of us saw the typo. And, now, it was the only thing we saw on the page.

It’s human nature to be imperfect. We all make mistakes. When you produce as many pieces of communication as we do, you get pretty good at identifying errors before the presses run. In our nine years of doing business, we’ve only made a couple of typos like this.

What struck me in this situation, however, was not the error, but the way my client handled it. Yes, he was disappointed. He was looking forward to unveiling this perfect piece at his meeting the next day. But he did not yell or scream or even blame.

“Don’t beat yourself up about this,” he said, “We missed it, too.”

Wow. How understanding! All I wanted to do was fix this for him. After testing a few options, my team and I figured out a way to replace the imperfect pages by hand. And while we couldn’t fix all of them in a single day, we drove to his office and fixed enough of them to get him through his meeting.

He was grateful for our efforts. And we were grateful to have such a reasonable and understanding client.

It’s easy to be nice when things are going well. But it’s how you treat others when things are going wrong that reveals your true character. What would it reveal about you?