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Responding is your responsibility

Posted 3/4/13

With little cash, and even less wine- industry experience, Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey launched Barefoot Wine in – where else – their laundry room. They built the brand and later sold it to wine giant E&J Gallo.

Now the business-owner duo share what they learned along the way with other business owners. One of their major lessons: Improving your business by admitting mistakes. Houlihan believes that customers judge you more by how you react to mistakes than how you behave when all is well. “Every business makes mistakes,” he said. “Denying that they’ve happened only makes an already awkward situation worse.”

Since they knew almost nothing about wine making or the wine business at the outset, Bonnie and Michael – who’ve written a book called “The Barefoot Spirit” – made their share of doozies. Some even threatened the entire business. So they quickly resolved not to fret errors, but rather make them opportunities to grow.

Here are some things that must happen for mistakes to make your business better:

• You own up. This can be tough, and uncomfortable. But you need to utter the mea culpa and acknowledge that you are, in fact, not perfect. The sooner you own up, the easier it is. There’s less drama and you can get on with fixing the situation faster. Besides, says Houlihan, people actually like a little imperfection now and then. It shows a level of authenticity, vulnerability and humanity. And it’s hard to be angry with someone who says, “You’re right – I messed up.”

• You don’t blame, you aim. Sometimes it might be easy, and temporarily satisfying, to point the finger at someone for a mistake. But if it happened on your watch, and you are accountable for the finished product, you ultimately share the blame in the customer’s eyes. So get to the bottom of what happened and aim your focus on what you and your business can do to prevent the mistake from happening again.

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