Chapter 48What Happens When I Screw Up?

In Chapter 45, I said that when working with clients, there should be absolutely no surprises about money or time. You'll recall that I rode in on the proverbial white horse to rescue my agency from a very difficult financial situation. My solution was actually quite simple—split the dollar difference and learn a lesson—but it saved the agency, and it kept our client. I was pretty proud of myself for being so wise and resourceful.

But enough about this rare occasion of personal competence. Let's talk instead about a more frequent example of when I screwed up. You'll note I didn't say “if I screw up.” It's “when I screw up” and not “if I screw up” because I have had occasion to screw up often.

The story begins innocently enough. I wrote a direct mail recommendation for a client that included a rough cost estimate and a projected mail quantity. I developed the estimate using a fairly logical set of assumptions based on my years of experience, and I felt I was safe with the number.

My client liked what I presented and gave us approval to proceed. I wrote a creative brief, confirmed a schedule, and briefed the creative team. After some back-and-forth with the writer, art director, and creative director, we arrived at a couple of ideas we liked. We took them to the client. After a few more back-and-forths, we arrived at a plan that pleased all of us.

I then wrote detailed specifications for the idea and put the job out to bid.

The numbers came ...

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