Failure Stinks

Wouldn’t you know it, I finally get a contract on my house (which I’ve had on the market for months) and a small animal crawls up under it and dies. The whole situation stinks – literally. So I ask my son and his buddy to crawl down under the house to retrieve the deceased varmint. They can’t get to it. Apparently, it’s in a remote corner of the room where the crawl space is too narrow to access.

So I ask my handyman to give it a try. No luck. Then, I explain the situation to a visiting plumber. He can’t get to it either. Finally, I call a pest control company. The owner is confident that he can handle the situation and remove the source of the stink. After an hour underneath my house, however, his confidence wanes and he admits defeat.

He resorts to sanitizing and fumigating the entire underbelly of my house with a protective odor shield. Before he drives away he tells me that, to get rid of the smell, I’ll need to coat that room with Lysol every few hours – for a week! Of course, today, on their last day of due diligence, my contracted buyers are coming by to inspect the house. I’m spraying Lysol and hoping for the best.

Sometimes, you fail even when you’ve done everything you can — in life and in business. Failures like that are disappointing, but I can live with them because I know I’ve done my best. It’s the other kind I find hard to stomach. The times when you know you could have done just a little bit more. . . but you didn’t.

You didn’t stay late. You didn’t follow up. You didn’t proofread one final time. You didn’t do everything you could to fix the problem.

We recently concepted, designed and produced a trade show booth with a three-week turnaround time. A week-and-a-half before the show, the production company told us that they would have to ship the booth overnight, adding $3,600 to the cost of the job. (They neglected to mention this charge when they estimated the job and promised on-time delivery.) We decided this was unacceptable. We asked them what rush charges would be to get it done faster so we’d have more time to ship and we exhausted ourselves searching for other options. Not because we were asked to, but because we’re our clients’ advocate. And we’re as careful with their money as we are with our own. In the end, we found a logistics company who would do it for a fraction of that amount. We felt better. The client was happy. Everybody won.

We weren’t able to eliminate the shipping charges, but we did everything we could to make them manageable.

Like the pest control man who spent an hour underneath my stinky house, I can live with failure as long as I know I’ve done my best. So, for now, I’ll head back to the house to spray another coat of Lysol before the new buyers arrive. And I’ll cross my fingers that they understand I’m doing all I can.