Crows are remarkably intelligent and can live 20 years. They typically have a wingspan of more than three feet and weigh nearly three pounds. A crow can fly up to 60 miles per hour and have been found as high as 14,000 feet in mountain ranges. Being smart, fast, and able to fly to great heights make them particularly hard to catch. A few years ago I had to catch one so I could eat it . . . metaphorically speaking of course.
To be a successful entrepreneur we must have an acquired taste for crow. We have all heard the saying “to eat crow” which connotes humiliation and having to admit the making of a mistake. Sometimes our ego gets in the way and we do everything we can to avoid admitting that we made a mistake. We may point the finger at others. Or we may try and cover up the mistake hoping that its results will somehow vanish into thin air. I can tell you that all these tendencies are mistakes.
One of our companies is involved in acquiring apartment properties across the country. We sold two such assets within a much shorter holding period than we had initially projected because of an opportunity to generate substantial profits. Members of our team prepared a detailed spreadsheet that showed how the sale proceeds would be distributed. These were large and complicated transactions with several tranches of equity provided by different investors. I was pleased to call two such investors to deliver the good news that they would be receiving a significant multiple of their original investment. Needless to say, they were thrilled.
Within days, I received a call from my partner who oversees our apartment acquisition business unit. Apparently, there was a bust in the calculations and these two investors would be receiving less than what I had told them. They were still receiving a substantial gain on the sale, but not quite as much as the expectation I had set. The mistake was honest and unfortunate, but it still had to be acknowledged. Thus, I went about the task of eating crow.
I called both investors and said the following, “I’m sorry to tell you that the distribution figure I provided the other day was erroneous. We made a mistake in calculating the sale proceeds and your new amount is $X. Happily your profit is still much greater than we projected when you made your investment three-and-a-half years ago. I wanted to get back to you as soon as I learned of the error and I hope that you will still be interested in looking at future investments with us.”
Because we are a team, I did not point a finger at the person who was responsible for the calculation. Instead, I said that “we” made a mistake. I did not make up an excuse for what had happened. Simple but painful. The result was an expression of understanding on the part of both investors. I am sure they were disappointed but there were no angry words and in both cases an indication of interest in looking at the next deal.
Relationships are built on trust and can be strengthened in situations where things do not go as planned. But this happens only when honesty and transparency are the top priority.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.