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What’s the biggest sin in business?

When you actively promote your business based on what it can do for people, it isn’t rocket science to figure out that you need to deliver or face the consequences.

Old printing pressEvery business understands the power of word of mouth. Not only does it bring you new business, but positive recommendation generally means the person doing the recommending plans to remain your customer too.

The sin of not delivering is, perhaps, made worse when the failure relates to a core product.

Have you guessed by now that this rant has been brought on by a frustrating personal experience?

We wanted some simple printing done. Our designer had produced an excellent document, all ready to just roll off the printer from a PDF file. In a rush, we went to a well-known national chain that makes this kind of work a key part of its offering.

To cut a long story short, they failed in a dramatic fashion. The first copy was done and, on inspection, they had managed to add lines to our photos that certainly don’t exist on the original. No problem, they said, and ten minutes of waiting for their computer to chug through what is apparently the normal fix in this situation, we had a fresh new copy of the document. The photos were fixed. Unfortunately the word spacing had been corrupted and the nice, graphical bullet points throughout the pages had been replaced with a capital Q in every instance.

At that point we gave up. I happen to know that this particular outfit relies quite heavily on free, open source software to deliver the service. Instead of making the investment in the software that is commonly used to produce most documents, it was making do. This was something the grimacing staff were painfully aware of.

It’s not hard to see that buying original, paid-for programmes to equip every store for the most common eventualities would be expensive. But all good businesses also know there’s a cost to doing business and part of that cost is investing in not destroying your reputation.

I’m not going to name the company here, though you can probably guess, but I’m not very likely to suggest its services to anyone else any more – and nor will I go back. What’s the point if it can’t even deliver on the basics?

Fortunately, we have a very good little print shop in the nearby town (it was logistics and timescales that drove us to the big boys this time) and our designer offers a brilliant service, as long as we can give more than ten minutes notice. I say ‘fortunately’; that’s fortunate for us, not for the massively promoted, big name store that has just obliterated our regard for it.

I think such reminders of how easily you can do long-term harm are hugely valuable, especially when they’re so easy to avoid.

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