Most of us don’t really know what it means to innovate, and that’s OK because it’s just a word. We all know what it means to grow, regardless of how you measure it, and arguably the best way to get there is to try new ways to enhance your customer experience, even if that means making mistakes from time to time.

(Image: Julia Lemba / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

(Image: Julia Lemba / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

One of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes has been echoed in different ways by other successful business leaders, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Jobs said, “If mistakes are made, it means decisions are being made and that’s good. Support customers and learn from these mistakes. Some will be unhappy, but it’s a proven way of getting there.”

There is an unsubstantiated anecdote attributed to Thomas Watson Sr., the legendary CEO of IBM, that may or may not be true, that nevertheless teaches a valuable lesson. After making a colossal mistake, a senior executive said to Watson, “I suppose you are going to fire me.” To that Watson replied, “Fire you? I just spend thirty-million dollars training you!”

We all must resist the tendency to get comfortable with success. As leaders, we need to permit our teams to make mistakes because they produce either valuable lessons or remarkable outcomes that customers appreciate and talk about.

Mistakes are prototypes for remembered success

Failures get a great deal of attention when they happen, especially nowadays, where everyone has a platform for sharing their views. It takes courage to fail, but there’s also no question that failures are a path to innovation. As LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman says, “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late.”

I recall a residential project that won my landscaping company its first industry award, a gold award, the highest possible from our state association. Nearly every aspect of that project was a first for us, the bluestone paving, the masonry walls, and the permitting variances. It was truly a proud moment, but it all would have been a lost opportunity had we not taken a few risks.

Last month I attended the Creator Economy Expo in Cleveland, Ohio, and Jesse Cole was the keynote speaker. He’s the founder of the wildly successful Savannah Bananas baseball team and the author of Fans First. One of his success mantras speaks to their culture of experimentation. “The biggest mistake is not making any,” he said.

He presented a challenge to the audience that you can share with your leadership team. “How can you encourage and reward your teams for experimentation?” If your landscaping or lawn care company’s customers are anything like ours, I know they want you to experiment. Sure, nobody wants mistakes, but my customers never beat me down for taking a risk as long as we fixed our mistakes.

You can live with that if it means greater differentiation and growth for your business, can’t you?

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Jeff Korhan

About the Author:

Jeff Korhan is the owner of True Nature Marketing, a Naples, Fla.-based company helping entrepreneurs grow. Reach him at Jeff works with service companies that want to drive growth and enhance their brand experience with digital platforms.

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