Last Sunday, while we were helping ourselves to turkey, stuffing, and Kings Hawaiian Rolls left over from Thanksgiving, a dirty, rotten scoundrel was helping himself to a flat screen TV and one of the computers in our office at sparkspace.
Not just any computer, our reservations computer, the one we use every day to take and store all of our reservation information. And, unfortunately, it was the one we used to store some of our clients’ credit card info.
Let me tell you, having to tell our clients that the information we were safekeeping on their behalf was stolen from our stronghold is one of the most humiliating, frustrating, stressful, and embarrassing feelings I have ever felt.
I debated whether or not to tell you this and risk even more embarrassment in front of thousands of people instead of a handful. However, I wanted as much good to come out of this negative event as possible; maybe our loss will transform into your gain. I also consider it a way to stick my tongue out at the thief so, in a way, it makes me feel better.
Here’s what I learned from being burglarized:
Stuff is just stuff.
Computers and flat screens are just hardware and easily replaceable. Stuff is never worth getting upset over.
Quick, clear communication is always the right thing to do.
As soon as we found out what had happened, our first duty was to communicate with the people who may have been affected by the situation. Even though it was painful, even though it was embarrassing, it was the absolute right thing to do.
When you live and work with integrity, people trust you.
Not a single client questioned our motives, or the fact that we would get it all taken care of as quickly as possible. In 14 years of business we’ve never given them any reason to doubt us.
When you build loyalty, people stand behind you.
We have the best clients in the whole wide world. We’ve worked hard to build lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships. We bend over backwards for our clients. The number of our clients that sent encouraging notes back to us was overwhelming. A few even brought a tear to my eye. No kidding.
There might be one you just can’t win back.
99.9% of our clients were supportive. Only one said they didn’t think they could do business with us any more. This bothered me so much I almost bought a punching bag to take out all my frustration…not with him, but with ME. It crushed my spirit to know I had disappointed someone that much. However I slowly realized that I was giving that one loss way too much power and I’ve decided that I can’t let that bother me any more. A year from now, I fully expect to be almost over it.
Positive action always helps.
Sitting around complaining does no good. It’s not even therapeutic. What IS therapeutic is to brainstorm solutions, create a plan, and take action. From what I observed last week, it was good for both the leader (me) AND for the team.
Backups can save your life.
If you don’t back up your computer, stop reading this article, drive to Staples, buy an external hard drive, and back up your computer today. Or use an online backup like Carbonite. Or both. If you need more inspiration and guidance to create a robust backup system, listen to Ray Edward’s “tip of the week” in this recent episode of his weekly podcast.
When stuff hits the fan, all eyes are on you.
As a leader, everyone watches to see how you react, especially when bad things happen. This is really important to understand because they will most likely follow your lead and act exactly the same way you do. So when disaster strikes, do you take it in stride, keep your cool, and create positive action? Or do you freak out and give in to the dark side? If I’m completely honest, I did a little of both last week. The positive reaction worked a whole lot better.
It’s never as bad as you think.
When you care deeply about something, like we do about our business, the highs can be extremely high and the lows can be extremely low. It’s important to keep in mind that when your emotions are involved, it’s almost never as bad as you think. To keep yourself in check, surround yourself with positive people who can help you maintain your perspective. I’m lucky, I have a whole team of people like that.
One thing I’ve been telling everyone is that situations like these are no fun at all, but we will be a better company tomorrow than we were yesterday because of it.
Thanks to all our friends and clients who have been so incredibly supportive. It is humbling, encouraging, and makes us want to work even harder to help you achieve greater health, happiness, and high performance at work.
P.S. We have completely changed the way we take payments and no longer store credit card information of any kind. If your business takes credit cards, I highly recommend taking a look at your own systems and processes to make sure you are keeping your client and customer information as secure as possible. Check with your merchant service provider (credit card processor) to make sure. You might be surprised at what you find (I know we were).