Some years ago, TEOCO owned WiserAdvisor*, a Lead Generation platform with an online directory that helped individual investors find qualified financial advisors. The product team and I once had a brainstorming session to decide how to make our directory more valuable to our advisor community. We eventually came up with the following idea: every time a registered user clicked on a financial advisor’s profile, the advisor received an email notification.

We genuinely believed that this was a good idea and that the notifications would be much appreciated. But to our horror, we soon discovered that they hated this service. We had not considered that most financial advisors had linked their email accounts to their cell phones. This was back in 2005 when every email received created an unwelcome ‘ding’ sound on a user’s mobile phone, so all these notifications quickly became a major irritant.

We realized that we had dug ourselves into a hole when we started getting hostile feedback. As we pondered over what to do next, we threw many ideas on the table. For example, would it be better to send a summary of daily activity instead of individual notifications? Or, should we ask the financial advisors to opt-in to getting such alerts?

I remember this discussion went on for quite a while until I chose to intervene decisively and said, “We must listen to our customers. No more e-mail notifications for profile clicks!” Sending these summaries or alerts at different intervals was like digging a deeper hole. We had to get out of the hole, not keep digging.

Every business makes bad decisions from time to time. I would go further and say everyone makes bad decisions at times. But when this happens, it is far better to own up to it, correct it, and move on. Decisive correction, or the ability to stop digging, is one of the most important life skills. At times, you will still find yourself in a hole. Just be sure that you don’t make things even worse for yourself while searching for a way out.

* was spun off from TEOCO in early 2011 and has grown significantly in the last five years by refocusing on its core strengths.

With special thanks to Srinivas Bhogle for his support and contribution to this project.