“You Were Right And I Was Wrong”

Some time ago, a client called me to apologize for not taking my advice on a deal that ultimately went bad for her.

“Alright” she said. “Let’s get this over with. Tell me you told me so.”

“No,” I said. “We discussed the risks, you considered my advice very carefully and then you made your own decision.”

A rep’s judgment should never in itself become a substitute for your own judgment. As between the rep and you, you alone will likely have to live with the consequences.

Most big decisions in this business (and in life) are a crap shoot; there’s rarely a bright line to follow. However, there are a few things you can do to increase the odds in your favor.

1.     Surround yourself with smart people of good will (that’s by far the hardest part). Look up the word “supportive.” It doesn’t mean working with reps who are yes men and it doesn’t mean silencing their dissent. However, it does mean ensuring that your reps are acting in your – not in their or someone else’s – best interests. See e.g., Iago in “Othello” or more apropos, Sammy in “What Makes Sammy Run?”

2.     Actively seek out your reps’ counsel. Don’t assume their silence means that they approve. They might just be inattentive, lazy or misunderstand their role in the decision making process.  If so, go back to step #1. Consider the risks, benefits and alternatives that they provide (as well as your own take).

3.     Then and only then make up your own mind.

And if you screw up against your reps’ best advice, that’s OK. Everyone screws up at some point.  But your reps better still be there for you to help clean up the mess.  That, and their good counsel is what you pay them for.

Of course, if anyone doubts that, just tell them I told you so.

  • Michele Seipp

    Hecky-darned good advice, as usual!

    Also, cute cat in the photo, and the spider’s cute, too!

  • Michele Seipp

    Hecky-darned good advice, as usual!

    Also, cute cat in the photo, and the spider’s cute, too!

  • Anonymous

    excellent words to heed my friend, my pal my blogger my producer in the makingxoxoxo

  • Anonymous

    excellent words to heed my friend, my pal my blogger my producer in the makingxoxoxo

  • katherine stephens

    wanted to comment sooner….all client’s seem to be the same in all industries.They pay for your advice and want to prove you wrong.The problem, they never want to PAY you for getting them out of their mistakes. The apology,which we hunger for seems, to be a disclaimer.

  • wanted to comment sooner….all client’s seem to be the same in all industries.They pay for your advice and want to prove you wrong.The problem, they never want to PAY you for getting them out of their mistakes. The apology,which we hunger for seems, to be a disclaimer.

  • Jim

    Great advice, and very good to see it in print.

    As an interior designer, I can’t tell you how many times a client wants to argue a point, to have me say, “It’s your house, you have to live here,” and then when I’m proven right, and they’re wrong but it’s somehow not their fault that they are dissatisfied.

    Sure, we all make mistakes, but if you are paying a professional, at least LISTEN!

  • Jim

    Great advice, and very good to see it in print.

    As an interior designer, I can’t tell you how many times a client wants to argue a point, to have me say, “It’s your house, you have to live here,” and then when I’m proven right, and they’re wrong but it’s somehow not their fault that they are dissatisfied.

    Sure, we all make mistakes, but if you are paying a professional, at least LISTEN!

  • Jim and Katherine,

    While I agree with your frustration – I too have clients that use me as a foil at times, I disagree with your end game. Working with clients should never be a struggle between their view and your view but rather an acceptance of their point of view despite the wrong-headedness of it. At the end of the day, they have to live with (and I guess sometimes, live in) the results of the decisions that they make. The best you can do is cover your backside re your best advice in writing not so much to prove that you told them so but rather to ensure they don’t revise history. There’s nothing wrong with making a living off of someone else’s mistakes or bad choices even if the mistakes come at a bit of a cost to your ego from a client not following your advice.

  • Jim and Katherine,

    While I agree with your frustration – I too have clients that use me as a foil at times, I disagree with your end game. Working with clients should never be a struggle between their view and your view but rather an acceptance of their point of view despite the wrong-headedness of it. At the end of the day, they have to live with (and I guess sometimes, live in) the results of the decisions that they make. The best you can do is cover your backside re your best advice in writing not so much to prove that you told them so but rather to ensure they don’t revise history. There’s nothing wrong with making a living off of someone else’s mistakes or bad choices even if the mistakes come at a bit of a cost to your ego from a client not following your advice.