Damage Control: A Skill Every Entrepreneur Must Learn

May 19, 2018


As an entrepreneur, you will have good days and bad days. But sometime you will have REALLY BAD DAYS. It’s pretty normal. Even CEOs of multibillion-dollar companies have bad days too. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg or Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks.

Bad days are inevitable. You cannot prevent them. However, you can manage them in a way which ensures that your company is not dealt a big blow.

Enter Damage Control. According to the Collins Dictionary,

 Damage Control is action that is taken to make the bad results of something as small as possible, when it is impossible to avoid bad results completely. 

Damage control is something every entrepreneur must learn how to do right. It’s the 21st century. Everybody is on Facebook. And WhatsApp and Twitter. We are all connected now.  All anyone needs to do is make a post online about a terrible experience they received from you and then you are toast.

Let me share two examples of damage control done great. One by Starbucks and by my own company, Invent Electronics.

In April 2018, 2 black men were wrongfully arrested inside a Starbucks for allegedly trespassing. It turned out that they did nothing wrong and were probably arrested because of their skin colour.  The whole event sparked massive online outrage and several protests which threatened Starbucks business.

Here’s how Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson responded.

1. He immediately apologized on behalf of the company and condemned the arrest.

2. He set up a meeting with the men to apologize personally and find out how they could help prevent such issues from happening in the future.

3. All employees at Starbucks were made to undergo racial bias training.

In the end, what looked like an inevitable crisis was averted. Sales weren’t even affected because of damage control done great.

The second story, from my own company, Invent Electronics.

Now Invent Electronics. At Invent Electronics we retail electronic components through our online store. Customers can make orders, pay with mobile money or their credit card and have their order delivered to them without having to walk into our office.

Now, in Africa, and particularly Ghana we have trust issues because of the abundance of fraud issues.  So it is a big deal for people to able to go online make orders and part with money without meeting the seller.

We had an incident where a first-time customer made an order and paid for it. We processed the order from our end but unfortunately, the shipping company did not deliver the order and couldn’t provide tracking information.

After 3 weeks we still couldn’t trace the order. The customer was understandably livid with anger and felt he had been duped. He even threatened to report us to the police!

When I found out about the incident, this is what I did:

I called him up and introduced myself as the CEO of Invent Electronics.  Next, I apologized and explained the situation calmly to him. I promised him that we were going to resend a new order immediately. In the package, I put in two things.

The first was a handwritten note thanking him for making the order and apologizing once again for the error.

The second was a coupon code with a discount for any future purchases we made.

He received the new order within 24 hours and what happened a few days later was amazing. We spoke to the customer and cracked jokes as if nothing happened.

So in conclusion, bad days will definitely come, for you as an entrepreneur and for your business.  How you respond to those bad days is what matters. As an entrepreneur, damage control is a skill you must definitely learn.

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