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Putting yourself in the public domain can have its downsides. In fact, people have often asked me why I get up and speak so frankly, publicly – why I blog so openly about the good, the bad and the embarrassing.

It’s because of our values – our second value is ‘Here for others – generous with our time, information and listening’. This has always held me in great stead – sharing openly what we learned. Believing that if I help others – one day all that assistance will come back in bucket loads.

What happens if stuff just doesn’t go as well as you would like it to? When you are serving more than 15,000 customers every month supported by 900 suppliers sometimes a detail could get missed.

Systems and processes set us free, and testing these over and over relentlessly will limit such embarrassment. Having a team who truly understand the contribution they make to that process.

I will often ask my team ‘what is the worst thing that could happen to me in public… what is the most embarrassing? How would I handle it?’ The reality is that stuff does happen – but how we deal with it promptly, professionally and personally will make the difference.

You may have seen the open letter to Mr Branson – dubbed the best complaint letter ever…
More than 3000 people have commented on the letter… now given that most people don’t leave comments I would suggest that more than 100,000 people at least have seen this letter.

Now that is embarrassing.

Or is it an opportunity. If Mr Branson was to write a reply about what he did to respond to the customer (and maybe everyone else on that flight – spontaneously) – that could win a greater appreciation for Virgin as well as brand Branson.

The brand is a promise – which is held in the hearts of the customer – when the promise is broken people feel personally let down. As a business grows dramatically it is investing in people, process and systems that will ensure the visionary, the leader or the founder is able to continue to do what they do best – confidently knowing that they can count on what they deliver.

I had lunch with another RedBallooner last week – as he heads to Melbourne to serve our customers better there he said to me, “you know if I made a sale at my previous place of employment I used to be ‘hopeful’ that the product would show up on time, that it would not be damaged and even that it would be the right one. The thing that has made it easy to sell at RedBalloon is because I 1000% trust the process – I know that what I sell will absolutely be delivered.”

To date, I have not had any publicly ’embarrassing’ occurrences. But as a leader, I never quite know if and when that might happen. (I’m sure to share if it does.)

The one thing I do know – is that every person in RedBalloon understands this absolute commitment to delivering on what we said. They know that any email we write, any phone call we make is either going to add to our brand reputation – ‘the promise’ or detract from it. It is our values and commitment that we will never ever give up on.

Reader Interactions


  1. suppose you must get a few complaints and i have written a couple to you but never get a response .I sent a email last week conserning a problem i was having .All I asked was can someone from Redballoondays can give me a suggestion on what i could get from your site for an elderly woman who turn 100 next week but the response i got was stupid it seemed to me that my first email was not read properly as the person sent back saying you do not do customising of gift. Now i did not ask for a customised gift all i asked for was help to find a gift for an elderly woman turning 100 who does not drink,eat lollies wear creams perfume or can do some of you experience.I am still waiting for a response to my reply email I sent last week her birthday is monday and i would like a gift from Red balloon days. So i am really cheesed off i have sent emails before and they have not been answered. so i write this here

  2. Hi Sue, Thanks for letting me know – I’ll have a look and track down how we have responded in the past and work with the team on that. This is exactly why I wrote the blog – if we don’t know – then there is nothing as the leader of the organization can do to improve the level of service.

    In the meantime here are a few suggestions for your the impending 100th birthday.. I have added links too.

    (Though I’m not sure where you are located) but we have many similar things in other states.

    Name a Star – This will last forever… High Tea at the Windsor Classic Portraight Photography – Personliased Photo Canvas Original oil painting from a photo Or a little more outrageous would be an Art Party…

    Thanks for letting me know

  3. i must say — as a subscriber of the blog, it was funny that i received this email a couple times and the subject title read ‘how embarrassing’. It did put a little smile on my face.

  4. Hi Sarah, Yes Ironic really – I had put the wrong date on the blog, and I did not realise that if you change the date the software treats it as a new blog… Lesson Learned (know what day of the week it is)

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