Sunday, 27 December 2015

Failure is nothing...It's temporary

That's right.  Failure is nothing!  What's more, I don't care if you disagree.  I KNOW it to be true. 
I have experienced it.

I failed massively a few years ago when, as a Field Sales Manager for Cable London, I was asked by the board to find a way to stop the bad debt that the company had accumulated.  Over 50,000 homes in London had a bad debt of around £250 against them.  Do the math, it was horrendous.

After a meeting with my team managers, marketing and credit control it was decided the best way to deal with it was to write a letter to each of the homes and target them with an offer specifically for bad debt addresses.  I say 'it was decided' but really, I decided to do it. I listened and weighed up the evidence for and against and I took the shot.  The offer was a smaller package that included a phone line with a limiter.  An agreed amount was set and when you reached it your phone became incoming calls only.  Even at the start of this as i was describing the process, it sounded like a recipe for disaster but the board loved it.  It cost over 20k to implement, with new databases in credit control and nice shiny glossy marketing literature and NOTHING happened.  It was an expensive failure.

I sat with the board and told them that it was a failure. I told them it was my fault.  I made the wrong call.  They decided to sit with the debt and ride it out.  I had a better idea.  A go it alone idea.  I told them I wanted to do something different and radical.  I wanted to disband the Retention department that we had, two people who rang up bad debtors (all they did is ask them if they could pay!), and revamp it to be more customer friendly but to also be more savvy.

They gave me the go ahead.

I interrogated the database in credit control myself because the 'debt' at each address was so close to £250 in each case, slightly more or less, it concerned me.  It was too, too, neat.

I discovered that the £250 was an automatic amount levied on every bad debt account because that was the value of the missing set-top box/ receiver!  We had already gone digital so those boxes were obsolete.  I wiped the debt almost in one tap of the keyboard.

I should have realised because set top boxes had been returned before by the customer when they closed their accounts properly.  They were sent a large pre-paid jiffy bag and asked to send the set-top box to our main offices, where I was based, in Stephen Street near Oxford Street in London.  I say that I should have realised because when we started that procedure the building had been evacuated every day for a week when the parcels were delivered as the security guards in the main reception thought they were parcel bombs!  We were very popular with the police after that!

I then looked at the retention department and advertised within the company for three more staff.  They came from customer services and telesales, great phone abilities.

I had the office expanded and a new phone system in place and I arranged for credit control to re-evaluate the system for clearing addresses of 'pre' debt as long as the person at the address could disassociate themselves from the person who had the service there previously.

I arranged for the new Retention department to either receive an email, Fax or through the post proof of ID or, if need be, send one of the old retention people around to the address to clarify.

The other beautiful thing about the whole system was that there were NO installation fees for the company because the wiring and cabling had already been done.  All an engineer did was turn up with the new digital box and they were live.

Within a 6 month period Cable London got an additional 33,000 subscribers lifted from bad debt and into new contracts.  It never looked back.

The thing is, failure happens.  In business it is an occupational hazard.  Leaders fail.  I stand by what I said at the beginning of this post because Failure is not important, unless you accept it.

You can walk away licking your wounds, or you could do what I did and have always done...re-evaluate, look at it in another way, from a different perspective, and do something different from what you did before....make it a success.

Failure really is NOTHING...but what you do about it is EVERYTHING!!
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