How embarrassing

Putting yourself in the public domain can have its downsides. In fact people have often asked me why I get up and speak so frankly, publically – why I blog so openly about the good, the bad and the embarrassing.

It’s because of our values. Our second value is: “Here for others – generous with our time, information and listening.”


This has always held me in great stead – sharing openly what we learned. Believing that if I help others, one day all that assistance will come back in bucket loads.


What happens if stuff just doesn’t go as well as you would like it to? When you are serving more than 15,000 customers every month supported by 900 suppliers, sometimes a detail could get missed.


Systems and processes set us free, and testing these over and over relentlessly will limit such embarrassment. Having a team who truly understands the contribution they make to that process.


I will often ask my team “what is the worst thing that could happen to me in public… what is the most embarrassing? How would I handle it?” The reality is that stuff does happen – but how we deal with it promptly, professionally and personally will make the difference.


You may have seen this open letter to Richard Branson – dubbed the best complaint letter ever. More than 3000 people have commented on the letter… now given that most people don’t leave comments, I would suggest that more than 100,000 people at least have seen this letter.


Now that is embarrassing.


Or is it an opportunity?


If Branson were to write a reply about what he did to respond to the customer (and maybe everyone else on that flight – spontaneously) that could win a greater appreciation for Virgin as well as “brand Branson”.


The brand is a promise – which is held in the hearts of the customer – when the promise is broken people feel personally let down. As a business grows dramatically it is investing in people, process and systems that will ensure the visionary, the leader or the founder is able to continue to do what they do best – confidently knowing that people can count on what they deliver.


I had lunch with another RedBallooner last week – as he heads to Melbourne to serve our customers better there, he said to me, “you know if I made a sale at my previous place of employment I used to be ‘hopeful’ that the product would show up on time, that it would not be damaged and even that it would be the right one. The thing that has made it easy to sell at RedBalloon is because I 100% trust the process – I know that what I sell will absolutely be delivered.”


To date I have not had any publically “embarrassing” occurrences. But as a leader I never quite know if and when that might happen. (I’m sure to share if it does.)


The one thing I do know – is that every person in RedBalloon understands this absolute commitment to delivering on what we said. They know that any email we write, any phone call we make, is either going to add to our brand reputation – “the promise” – or detract from it.


It is our values and commitment that we will never ever give up on.


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