John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” In business, this typically means just when you can’t afford for a disaster to happen, it will. Regardless of the size of your business, problems happen all the time and can have a significant impact on your business. So how do we turn these “Faults” into a “Feature”?

Too often when a mistake happens, organisations will quickly try and sweep it under the carpet, hide it from the public and pretend that everything is running exactly as planned. Our customers are now too smart for that. They can tell and we need to be bigger than that too. Why try and hide our issues from our customers when there are frequently benefits from making it a highlight?

For example, I received a message from a friend on Facebook regarding a conference I was the opening keynote for. She said:

Eeek! My 3 year old sat on my laptop and cracked the screen.... not great for anyone but especially an editing photographer!! I will give up my EXPO table for Monday.....I was reliant on my laptop for that! I will just come and network and listen instead!

I quickly got in touch with her and insisted that she still exhibit. When things like this happen, you MUST use them as a feature. How much more attention would she get with a printed picture of her child sitting on her laptop stuck to the laptop than the same old boring image. Most of the guests could relate to something similar happening. She would be far more memorable as "The woman whose kid sat on her laptop". We came up with several different solutions she could use and still take advantage of this event.

In a business world where businesses are becoming more and more beige, trying to conform to the “politically correct normal” position, an authentic business stands out. Think about the people in your life who you value. I guarantee there are several there that you appreciate because you classify them as “what you see is what you get” or “you know where you stand with them.” Why would we be any different in business?

It’s not just for small business either. A product recall can be one of the most dangerous events for any brand, but if you do it well, you can actually make a feature of the recall. In 1997 Arnott’s Biscuits in Australia was subject to an extortion bid. They dealt with this by being incredibly open with the Australian public and recalling all of the related biscuits.

According to Wikipedia, this recall cost them $22 million. But their openness and honesty significantly contributed to customer loyalty. At the end of the extortion bid, there were many reports of significant increase in sales of their biscuits across their entire range.

So how will you turn your Fault into a Feature? There are a couple of keys to making it happen.

Choose your Attitude
If you go down the path of panic, frustration and calamity then that is what it will be. You MUST choose to see this at the opportunity that it is. You may not be able to see how you can make the most out of it to start with, but you have to be confident that there will be a way. Make sure that those on your team share this attitude. Only then will the creative ideas on how to maximise the situation flow.

Start with your team. Be open about what has happened, what your attitude is toward it and what your plans are to deal with it. If you have no plans, share it with your core team and come up with a plan. If you need, get experts involved. There are plenty of brand specialists or critical incident PR firms who can assist with strategies if required. Once you have a plan, continue to communicate. Be authentic and let your customers and the market know what has happened and how you are dealing with it.

Take Responsibility
The easiest thing is to start the blame game. Who was at fault is irrelevant in the beginning. There will be more than enough time to do a root cause analysis later. For now the most important thing is to take responsibility for correcting the situation. For smaller incidents, that can be something as simple as coming up with a creative solution like our entrepreneur whose child sat on her computer. The important thing is that someone needs to take a leadership position to get through the situation. Why not you?

Get Creative
All problems have a solution. Sometimes the solution is very straightforward; sometimes a little left field; or it could even be way outside of the box. There will ALWAYS be a solution. Again, you may need to focus on the attitude you have chosen, but most situations will have a way to get a fairly swift solution that gives positive results. Others may need a lot more time to come up with the solution and it may be how you handled it that gives you the positive results.

Get Help
For some bizarre reason, too many of us try to battle on alone. Both as individuals and as organisations we try to keep everything internal. It is important to realise there are specialists in all industries that deal with the kind of situation you have. Why wouldn’t you minimise your pain and get help? In many societies we have a culture of “saving face” or “looking good”. Thanks to the internet and other forms of technology, EVERYONE is now on a global stage. We can no longer afford that luxury.

So how will you turn a fault into a feature? It may be a minor incident; it may be something more major. You may simply publish a white paper with content saying what happened to you and how you learned from it - sharing with your clients, your industry or your team what they can do if it happens to them.

As business people, you know that the moment you can’t afford for there to be any faults that it is more likely when one will happen. So what will you do?

Author's Bio: 

Warwick Merry is the CEO (Chief Exhibiting Officer) of the Exhibiting and Sponsorship Institute. They work with organisations to achieve Excellence in Exhibiting and Event Sponsorship. For further information visit