Marissa Levin
CEO, speaker and writer

Marissa Levin

Founder and CEO of Information Experts, a 15-year-old strategic communications, human capital, and training consulting firm. Nationally known speaker and writer, and an expert on how to build a successful business while building a fulfilling life.


4 mistakes I can't shake

Q: What are the biggest mistakes -- professional and personal -- you've made on the road to where you are today? Were you able to overcome them?

One of the reasons I am a successful writer and speaker is because I have made so many mistakes as I've built my business. I have a lot of material to work with; I can impart a lot of knowledge based on where I've gone wrong. But some mistakes stick with you more than others. Some of them, you just can't shake no matter how much time passes.

In my business, the mistakes that I will not soon forget are these:

1. Letting payment terms lapse, and delivering a finished product before I had our final check. We were stiffed for $300,000 about 10 years ago by a client. We still haven't been able to collect that money.

2. Hiring too quickly. It's easy and common for business owners to make impetuous hiring decisions when work comes in the door. Small business especially can't afford to have people sitting around waiting for work. To control their cash flow, they often wait until the last possible moment before making a hire, and they jump on the first candidate that walks in the door.

3. Terminating too slowly. Small-business owners also hold onto employees whom they should terminate. Terminations are extremely disruptive to work flow, morale, and culture. I'm guilty of holding onto people for too long that were no longer a fit for the company, which is also a drain on morale and productivity.

4. Over-trusting. Like so many working mothers, I struggle with the juggle. I struggle to give 100% to my family and 100% to my business every day, because honestly, it's impossible to do that. So sometimes, balls drop. I've trusted others too much to do the right thing in my business when my focus had to be elsewhere. And the business suffered... but came back after I re-focused.

None of these mistakes are unique; based on my conversations with many other business owners, I think they're fairly common for most entrepreneurs. But that doesn't make the bitter pill easier to swallow. The best we can do in both our personal and professional lives is to learn from our mistakes. I consciously try to live a life of reflection, rather than a life of regret.

Worrying and regretting are like sitting in a rocking chair. You can do it all day long and it won't get you anywhere.

By Marissa Levin  |  August 1, 2010; 2:30 PM ET  | Category:  Careers and success , Recovering from failure , Success and failure , Sustaining success , Turning crisis into catharsis , costly success , women Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Hi everyone: Thanks for your comments. Axeldc, I appreciate your position. It's devastating to have the rug pulled out from under you from someone you trust with your business. I've been there. But fortunately, my experience has shown me that there are far more people I can trust than those that I can't. I have an incredible leadership team and advisory team. But this doesn't negate the damage that a single person can cause if you trust them too much. At the end of the day, the business owner has to own the outcomes. I take full responsibility for the problems that resulted by trusting too much. But I also take responsbility for the recovery. Like the first comment says, it's all about learning from your mistakes and moving on. You can't be afraid to make mistakes. You can't live life in a bubble.

Posted by: Marissa Levin | August 3, 2010 8:10 AM
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Mistakes that we learn from never hurt us, and your positive attitude will always allow you to see a solution to any problem.

Posted by: BudMck1 | August 2, 2010 11:26 PM
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If her biggest mistakes in business were being too trusting and kind, then I don't want to go into business where I have to become hard and cynical to succeed.

Posted by: AxelDC | August 2, 2010 10:24 AM
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Biggest mistake any professional can make is dealing with American banks. They are criminal enterprises. They launder the drug cartels money and will shake you down like a loan shark. Avoid them.

BofA, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, are some of the worst that recently got caught in Mexico laundering drug money. They have no ethics.
Be careful.

Posted by: onesideplease | August 2, 2010 12:39 AM
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