“When you fail, and you will…” – Leadership NB Prompt #9

Pick a moment when you’ve led, when the project didn’t work, when there was failure. Tell us what happened and why it’s personal… and why it’s not.

I’m taken back to an incident that happened when I was working for my grandfather, we were planning on taking the flange world on (oil field meter tubes and pipe flanges). I learned how to program a CNC machine, taught myself how to run the thing, and figured a lot of things out along the way.

My grandfather had a great idea of a new way to assemble the meter tube and flange, a more efficient and effective way that literally could have changed the way oil companies operated by making their measurement capabilities more precise.

We worked out so much of the plans for how this would move forward, how we would be able to bootstrap this business into existence and how it would grow and change over time. I started researching the industry and competition. And the time had finally arrived where we were going to place a huge order, and start on our path to bigger and better things…

I get everything ready, I’ve talked with 10 different suppliers from around the world and have narrowed it down to 1 forge out of Romania. We knew enough at the time to avoid India and China because so many companies had problems in the past they would downright reject the metal before it was out of the box. So here I am crossing my ts and dotting my is, checking everything over and over, and I finally fax my order off. And we wait…

6 weeks later crate after crate full of thousands of pounds of metal arrives and we open the first one, “Hey! This isn’t right!!!” my granddad exclaimed.

We had just paid around $30,000 for junk.

On our order I had missed a letter code, I had it wrong from the start. It was something I just didn’t know. None of the forges I had quoted from looked at our spec drawings to see we had the wrong order code. We had just paid around $30,000 for junk. And to make matters worse East European metal and forgings had recently been put on the suspect list of poor quality. So we could have sold this incorrect order and been fine if it was from somewhere else.

I led that, but the wrong direction. I should have sought some outside help but never even thought about it as a possibility. It was so personal because I felt like I had messed up, and I had made the mistake that was going to not allow us to grow the way we had hoped. But I learned enough from that experience and our business had grown enough in just me learning to run and program the CNC machine that it actually wasn’t a bad experience.

Spencer Heckathorn

I've been writing online on and off for nearly 20 years now. But I have been building online businesses and trying to figure out different ways to make money online consistently for 15 years. Recently you can find me writing on https://foodieresults.com and posting odd musings to Twitter @mrhobbeys. I also have a mailing list I'm passionate about growing because email and a personal website are better ways for people to do social media.

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