Fool Me Once, Shame on You………..Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me……

Fool Me Once, Shame on You………..Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me……

People make mistakes.

It’s a sad fact of life that none of us (that’s right, not even you!) are completely faultless…

We’re not robots, we’re not machines, we’re human beings.

In no particular order, we can be fallible, flappable and forgetful, but when it comes to business, these unavoidable traits can be costly, both in terms of time and money.

When it comes to your own personal quirks and culpabilities, there are things you can do to mitigate against the issues, because you know what they are. It might be that you’re rubbish with remembering dates, so you use your calendars religiously, making sure you don’t miss anything. You might have a doctorate in procrastination, so you outsource those little odds and ends that you always put off.

When we’re dealing with other people though, be that face to face, on the phone or over the internet, we have to deal with their quirks and culpabilities too, and they are much more difficult to predict.

Now, some people would tell you that in business, you get one chance to get it right, and that the first time you fluff your lines will be your last. It’s a cut throat approach to dealing with people that sees suppliers dropped for incorrect deliveries, and employees sacked for missing their first target. Does this harsh method get results? Sometimes, but as a small to medium sized business owner, can you really afford to adopt such a no holds barred approach?

You’ve heard the expression about glass houses and throwing stones, and so if you’re looking to operate with a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy, you’d better make sure that your own house is in order, from top to bottom.

We don’t want to come across all shangri-la on you, because we know that business isn’t all peace and love, otherwise it wouldn’t work, but we much prefer to give people, and other businesses, a chance.

When do they need that chance? When they make a genuine mistake…

There are so many examples of this within the business world, that we could write a book about them, there’s an idea, but to illustrate our point, let’s look at a fictional collaboration between businesses that has the potential to go two ways…

A creative collective of businesses are liaising with each other and working together on the production of a website. Photographers, web developers, copy writers, graphic designers. There’s an army of these guys, a blend of freelancers and small companies.

It could be a group of trades working together to deliver a building on time. Use whichever context you like, the idea is the same.

Let’s say that three quarters of the group are delivering, meeting the client’s wishes and holding up their end of the bargain, but the copywriter (or the sparky, whichever one you want) is delaying the completion of things due to their own individual circumstances.

What could those circumstances be?

Well, remember, we’re dealing with human beings, so it could be anything.

A business may not be holding up their end of the bargain because they have too much other work on, and haven’t scheduled enough time or resource to get something done on time. This isn’t great for everyone else, but it isn’t the worst possible reason.

A business could be involved in another job that has overrun due to circumstances beyond their control, and then the knock on effect has slowed things down.

What about if it’s personal? There could be illness, there could be bereavement, there could be personal issues that you’d never be likely to know.

If you’d just lost someone close to you, would you want to broadcast that as the reason for why things have slowed down? How would you feel if you were dropped from a job, or blacklisted because you went MIA for a few days whilst sorting out funeral arrangements?

The point is, we may never have a full understanding of why one particular partner, be they a supplier, a co contractor or a subby, has fallen below the usual expectations, Whilst we may never know, we do have a choice over what to do next.

You can drop them there and then. Time is money and you haven’t got the patience to wait for someone to sort themselves out, or for a business to get back up to its usual standards.

Or, you can practice a little empathy…

Show understanding, be patient, but make sure to explain that you still require higher standards going forwards.

This doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you a doormat, or a mug. It actually puts you in a more powerful position.


Because when you inevitably have an ‘off day’, or even an ‘off job’, people will remember the understanding you showed them when it was their turn for a wobble.

Because the establishment and nurturing of relationships is one of the most important things in business, and empathy counts for so much in this.

All of the above comes with a huge caveat though, we have to stress, and you’ll find it in the title of the blog.

Forgiveness and understanding are qualities that should underpin your operations as a business owner. Trust us, they’ll come in handy. Only afford other businesses and partners that forgiveness and understanding once though. Give them a second chance, if they need it, but never a third or a fourth.

This is where the cut throat instinct has to kick in, when patterns start to emerge and habits begin to form.

Like we said, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame one me.

And in business, you simply can’t afford to be anyone’s fool.