The four best business f***-ups I've made

  • Voices
  • June 19, 2019
  • Wendy Thompson
The four best business f***-ups I've made
Wendy Thompson (far left) and the Socialites team

Inventor Thomas Edison is an expert on failure. He famously said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work".

We remember Edison for his revolutionary invention of the light bulb. But he actually filed 1,100 patents in his lifetime, in electronics, medicine and chemistry. The man never quit. And that's the same story of the inventors of our time: entrepreneurs, and they never quit.

Recently, I was asked to speak for MUV and Start Up Grind at TechWeek about my failures. I only had six minutes to speak so narrowed it down to just four fuck ups, although it's probably closer to 44 million. 

My amazing Dad taught me that managing 'failure' is all about attitude. That we need to reframe failure and fuck ups, large and small, and package them as learning experiences, all of which build resilience. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

Even now, they are cringe worthy, and make me feel so awkward to share. But all failures, 10 years down the track, make a great story later!

My favourite fuck up #1

All my failures were embarrassing but as I look on it now, this is easily one of my most embarrassing ones. It makes me cringe because of my naivety at the time and my major over-reaction.

Fashion houses Gucci and Chanel logos, visually, are not world's apart (above). They're both high-end, iconic brands and there is room for both to thrive. They're hot property for millennials and in 2019 are showing no signs of being put out to pasture. Which leads me to my story.

Around 15 years ago, when I was running a Pilates business in partnership, I was making it up as I went along, as you do. It was at a time before I had any proper business support or know-how and was pretty isolated. We'd just taken out a huge business loan and it took six months to finally break even with just enough money to live on. This was all whilst I had two young daughters. It was all a huge amount of effort.

But my true failing here was my identity became so caught up in my business. I was the business. It defined who I was.

Then one day I went to my car and there, tucked in under the windscreen wiper was a flyer for a new pilates studio just down the road. And the kicker was its logo was very similar to ours and the colours were nearly identical.

I felt like I was being attacked and was enraged. I become self-righteous and indignant, and immediately asked a lawyer friend of mine to send a cease and desist letter. Um, kind of an over-reaction, right?

I totally let this distract me from my focus and spent a lot of time and energy thinking about them instead of putting the attention on my business and clients.

I was so naive. Here's the absolute clanger... this new Pilates business had copyrighted their business and I hadn't!

By my turning attention to this business, I became distracted. I should have been focusing on my business and only on my business. I was also letting my being scared rule my decision-making and my anger came from a place of fear. I assumed that these two Pilates businesses – the pilates version of Gucci and Chanel – couldn't operate side by side.

But they could and they did.

My favourite fuck up #2

Jerry Maguire's client famously said:

“What you do have is my word. And it’s stronger than oak.”

And he meant it. For nearly 24 hours. Then the next day, he broke his word.

My version happened over a hand-shake agreement for a retainer with a very important client of mine – a client that consumed half my business. I'd sent them the contract – I wasn't stupid – but the months went on and they hadn't signed... hadn't signed... hadn't signed... And then I was stupid: I didn't make it a priority to get this done. I had been working with them for years, after all.

Then, as is inevitable is business, things changed. Procurement called me one day. It was a moody, grey winter's day that I'll never forget. They murmured words like 'budget cuts', 'cutting back', 'cancelled retainer' and '10 days notice'.

I at first felt betrayed, but then stupid. This was my fault. They had to do what they had to do. I was angry at myself.

My favourite fuck up #3

One of my business Socialites' core values is 'Excellence in Everything'. We like to focus on each value for a month at a time and see where we can improve. In this particular month I decided that we'd deliver our clients the very best monthly reports they'd ever seen or will ever see again.

And did we ever! They were beautiful. They were slick, sexy, and jam-packed full of insights and data. They had pretty graphs and thumb-stopping imagery. My team and I were so, so proud of them. Then we released them into the wild, into the hot little hands of our clients. And then....

....nothing. 

After four weeks of feeling like I was living in an alternate universe with no response from any clients, I gave them a call. None of them had read my beautiful reports. Not. One.

Basically, all they wanted from us was bullet points and screenshots. All that time, energy and money came to nothing.

My favourite fuck up #4

This one is a doozy, especially for me who is both shy and works in technology.

Years ago, I was running a social media workshop in a mid-sized conference room talking about social media to a room of around 60 marriage celebrants. It was a tough crowd given some barely used a computer let alone were ready for the onslaught of social media. At the front of the room was a big screen. Like a really huge, gigantic screen.

And then: "Ding!"

A very personal Facebook message with a photo appeared in all its full colour, giant glory on this huge, ginormous screen. 

Cue Fawlty Towers comedic moment of me unplugging, replugging, manically deleting, turned off the screen, then turned it on, and it was still there! The room was in hysterics. Amid all the guffaws and laughter it was very definitely one of those 'I wish the ground opened up and swallowed me' moments.

Lesson learnt: If you're running a workshop about social media, or anything that involves a computer, create a dummy social media account to demonstrate on. And if you're speaking at a conference, shut everything down. No notifications, no nothing. Ever.

I also learned that people are very forgiving – I was invited back to run my workshop again the following year.

So that's my small list of fuck ups. I'd love you to share yours. All in all, everything I have ever done has led me to here, and I like being where I am. So whether you're riding through failure or success, it's all okay in the end.

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Creativity first: Lumo’s challenge to the industry
Sponsored content

Creativity first: Lumo’s challenge to the industry

Wanting to inspire and celebrate dynamic and interactive creativity in the digital outdoor space, Lumo has created The Pixel Awards. StopPress sat down with co-founder and chief executive Phil Clemas to talk digital opportunities, breaking down barriers and growth.

Hold onto your hats: Meridian Energy and Garage Project launch a homage to windy Wellington

  • Advertising
  • September 10, 2019
  • StopPress Team
Hold onto your hats: Meridian Energy and Garage Project launch a homage to windy Wellington

Meridian have teamed up with Garage Project brewery to launch Turbine Pale Ale and introduce the energy company’s new renewable energy certification.

Read more

Movings/Shakings: 10 September

  • Movings/Shakings brought to you by Marsden Inch
  • September 10, 2019
  • StopPress Team
Movings/Shakings: 10 September

Industry happenings at Mission Estate Winery, 99 and Stuff.

Read more
topics
Story IQ
Story IQ
Story IQ is a brand story consultancy. We help brands uncover the hidden, untold stories ...
Up-and-Comers
Up-and-Comers
We give the mic to the industry's future leaders to hear their thoughts on media, ...
Insight Creative
Insight Creative
Insight Creative specialises in shaping business stories out the core insights that often lie under ...
The Stoppies 2018
The Stoppies 2018
In February (Valentine's Day to be exact), StopPress gathered the industry for an evening of ...
Follow The Money
Follow The Money
Follow the money. It’s an axiom that journalists have believed in for years and a ...
Regional Rundown
Regional Rundown
StopPress takes a trip down the country to see who the audiences and agencies are ...
Beyond the Page 2018
Beyond the Page 2018
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Beneath the Surface
Beneath the Surface
In this series, brought to you by Microsoft, we talk to a conceptual photographer, illustrator ...
20/20 (tele)vision
20/20 (tele)vision
Media consumption is changing. But by how much?
The Hot List
The Hot List
Our rundown of the hottest shows, brands and creators in New Zealand media. 1. magazine ...
Cannes Lions 2017
Cannes Lions 2017
All the winners, the shortlists and the drama from this year's edition of advertising biggest ...
Merger Mania
Merger Mania
All our stories on the nation's two failed mergers in one place
Bauer Beyond the Page
Bauer Beyond the Page
When it comes to creating branded content, there are few better in the Kiwi market ...
The Indies
The Indies
Over the course of this series of articles, we look at how always-nimble indy agencies ...
AdRoll on automation
AdRoll on automation
Marketing automation is tipped to eventually become the only way advertising is traded in the ...
Game Changers
Game Changers
It’s all about PEOPLE. Join us as we discuss global insights, ideas and innovations from ...
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
Celebrating all the winners of the 2015 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.
Future Tense
Future Tense
In a new series, StopPress talks to a range of newsmakers currently trying to shine ...
Beyond the Page
Beyond the Page
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Up Country
Up Country
In conjunction with News Works, the Up Country series talks with some of New Zealand's ...
Sounding off
Sounding off
As part of a content partnership with MediaWorks, we've asked a few of the company's ...
StopPress Podcasts
StopPress Podcasts
We sit down for a chat with industry leaders to find out what they're up ...

Ads of the week: 10 September

  • TVC of the week
  • September 10, 2019
  • StopPress Team
Ads of the week: 10 September

Te mahi pai (good work) to Pepsi NZ, Meridian and Garage Project, Augusto and the Māori Language Commission, and Dettol.

Read more

Sweetshop & Green production company launches in New Zealand

  • Agency
  • September 10, 2019
  • StopPress Team
Sweetshop & Green production company launches in New Zealand

Two international companies, Sweetshop and Green Productions have joined forces to launch Sweetshop & Green into Australia and New Zealand. The new company has a focus to bring small and large scale tv and film productions to the country.

Read more
voices

Social scoreboard

Zavy and StopPress have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Not Tu Meke of a challenge: Māori Language Week kicks off with a pesky Australian

  • Advertising
  • September 10, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
Not Tu Meke of a challenge: Māori Language Week kicks off with a pesky Australian

Aiming to get New Zealanders to speak more te reo Māori than a native Australian bird, Augusto and the Māori Language Commission have issued a fairly easy seeming challenge to Kiwis.

Read more

John Miles steps into CEO role for the Marketing Association

  • Marketing
  • September 10, 2019
  • StopPress Team
John Miles steps into CEO role for the Marketing Association

The Marketing Association is readying itself this week for a change of hands in the role of CEO. John Miles will step into the position at the end of September, as its current CEO Tony Mitchell prepares for his own departure.

Read more

From PR to Rising Star: Erin Berryman on the magazine industry

  • Media
  • September 9, 2019
  • StopPress Team
From PR to Rising Star: Erin Berryman on the magazine industry

The MPA judges described this year's 'Rising Star', Erin Berryman, as a commercially-focused editor who has demonstrated strategic nous during her site, Beautyheaven, launch and ongoing development. Here, Berryman shares her thoughts on the award and the industry she is rising through.

Read more

"We probably didn’t know what we had till it was gone": programmatic players respond to KPEX closure

  • Advertising
  • September 9, 2019
  • StopPress Team
"We probably didn’t know what we had till it was gone": programmatic players respond to KPEX closure

Last month brought news that KPEX, the Kiwi Premium Ad Exchange consortium created in 2015 by Stuff, NZME, MediaWorks and TVNZ, is to close. The move is the result of changing market demands and shareholder priorities. Following the news, local programmatic players, Kargo and Acquire, have shared their thoughts.

Read more

The news of their death has been greatly exaggerated

  • Voices
  • September 9, 2019
  • Richard Pook
The news of their death has been greatly exaggerated

After long and illustrious lives, there are many who are ready to write the Global Ad Agencies’ obituary. And they do have a point - they’re facing some existential challenges, not least from the global technology giants. Richard Pook, general manager of Amplifi New Zealand, writes about the recent quarterly reporting season and demonstrates just how powerful these tech companies have become.

Read more
Creativity and scientific thinking required to leverage data and insights
Sponsored content

Creativity and scientific thinking required to leverage data and insights

There’s no doubt you recognise the need for your organisation to better leverage the power of data and insights. Leaders in marketing, technology and communications are all striving to better understand today and find was to predict what will happen tomorrow.

DDB Group welcomes in fifth agency

  • Advertising
  • September 6, 2019
  • StopPress Team
DDB Group welcomes in fifth agency

DDB Group has launched its fifth agency following growth and globally successful campaigns. Tribal Worldwide New Zealand now leads the group's digital department.

Read more

Humbleness be darned: NZ Marketing rightfully takes out Supreme award at MPA’s 2019

  • News
  • September 6, 2019
  • StopPress Team
Humbleness be darned: NZ Marketing rightfully takes out Supreme award at MPA’s 2019

That’s right. In a move that was a huge surprised yet at the same time not at all a surprise, NZ Marketing Magazine took out the Supreme Award for Best Magazine at the Magazine Publishing Awards for 2019, beating out the competition and claiming its rightful crown as best of the best. Bow down.

Read more

StopPress noticeboard

  • Noticeboard
  • September 6, 2019
  • StopPress Team
StopPress noticeboard

Deals, expansions and acquisitions across the industry.

Read more

OMANZ and Out-of-Home kick off support for Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori

  • News
  • September 5, 2019
  • StopPress Team
OMANZ and Out-of-Home kick off support for Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori

Encouraging the use of Te reo Māori continues to grow in importance as native speaking numbers decline. Continuing support for the language this Māori Language Week, OMANZ (JCDecaux, oOh!Media!, QMS, Media5 and AdVantage Media), with assistance from LUMO and Go Media, will be using their talents to make the language more visible.

Read more
Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About

StopPress provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2019 ICG Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise

Contact Vernene Medcalf at +64 21 628 200 to advertise in StopPress.

View Media Kit