When I worked at a prestigious investment bank, I asked my assistant to DHL a very important time-critical document to one of our largest clients. It was her visa, which will allow her to fly to Taiwan that Sunday for a very important two-day conference that following week.
My assistant couriered the document to our client’s office.
And while it was the correct office, he managed to stupidly send it to the wrong country! Instead of mailing it to her where she is residing in Hong Kong, he mailed it to their satellite office in Singapore.
The document arrived on Friday evening at the client’s office in Singapore. Her assistant called me to inform me of this huge mistake.
My first reaction was to kill him. Like, literally, throwing him off the building.
So to calm myself down, I locked myself in the room and immediately called my counterpart in Hong Kong to calm myself down. I started screaming in frustration and didn’t know what to do.
Put it this way, this was one of our top-tier clients, and we have already arranged 16 one-on-one meetings for her for the conference. If she couldn’t arrive, then we would have to cancel all the meetings, and this stupid boo boo can cause us to lose millions in commissions.
How do you think my boss could explain this to her? “Sorry, but my girl mailed your visa to the wrong country?”
There’s really no way to get out of this. There is ZERO way we do not deliver the visa to her.
The problem is that DHL do NOT courier documents on a weekend. If the assistant sends the visa to her that Friday afternoon, the visa will already arrive on Monday afternoon at the latest, causing her to miss one whole day of meetings.
She would have to change her flight. This will cause major embarrassment both for us, since the people whom she worked for, and the companies she is meeting will know the snafu we got ourselves into.
In other words, such boo boo was UNACCEPTABLE.
And despite the fact that it was my incompetent assistant who couriered the visa to the wrong office, it was still ultimately my responsibility to fix the problem. I was his boss and I had to take accountability for his mistake.
So what did I do?
My partner and I looked into the bank’s travel network to see if there were anybody in the company who will be traveling from Singapore to Hong Kong on Friday evening or Saturday.
Thankfully, our company database was state of the art, and we were able to find ONE match.
I think the Lord was really watching out for me.
Another blessing was that we actually knew who this person was — This guy worked in the institutional equity sales desk in Singapore and knew just how critical this client was, and how important this task was for us.
He was also a super nice guy, who immediately agreed to be our mule to bring the visa from Singapore to Hong Kong.
The second problem was how do we get the visa from our client’s office to him, so that he could bring the visa to Hong Kong? By that time, it was already evening and the client and her assistant has gone home.
The visa at that time was in their office. There was no work the next day.
So we racked our heads again for a solution.
Once again, we tried to ask for outside help. Since this problem is bigger than I was, I escalated the problem to my boss, the Head of Equities.
I calmly told him the problem: that we made a big boo boo, but that we have a solution. We informed him that Garett would deliver the visa from Singapore to Hong Kong the very next day (since he departed at noon), but needed help to get the visa from the client’s office to Garett before his flight.
I told him that I’ve already booked a driver in Singapore, but wanted help on how we can get the client’s help to inform their Singapore office assistant to go to the office early Saturday morning and give Garett the visa.
Thankfully, we were once again able to find a solution.
One of our equity sales staff was married to a senior analyst who worked for that client. He was more senior than our client, and was able to ask their Singapore assistant to get out of bed on Saturday morning, get the visa from their office, and deliver the visa to Garett on time before he leaves for his flight.
Of course, the driver was on OUR expense. I booked our most reliable in Singapore to pick the assistant up, take her to the office, and then to Garett’s house before taking her back home.
I also asked Garett to buy her a big box of Godiva chocolates and flowers, so that when she came with the visa, he had a token of appreciation for her hassle in getting up early Saturday morning. Garett was in sales and was a charmer.
And while there was some grumbling in the Singaporean assistant’s part, the moment she met cute Garett, she was charmed and happily accepted her flowers and chocolates.
Garett flew from Singapore to Hong Kong that afternoon and hand-delivered the visa to the client.
Oh my gosh — you can never imagine just how stressful everything was. Honestly, even up until today, I really don’t know just how we pulled it off. It took an entire group of competent people to save the account, and save it we did.
This just proves that no matter how problematic an issue may be, there is always a solution IF YOU DO NOT ACCEPT DEFEAT.
And I think this experience gave me an invaluable lesson —- Shit happens. Shit happens all the time.
However, we cannot take these experiences in defeat. If shit things happen, then we face the problems and solve it.
Now that I am managing my own business, this is a lesson I try to impart to my staff — Never accept defeat. Hindi pwedeng hindi (Don’t say NO or never).
If people give you a problem, still do not accept no as an answer. Always find a way to solve the problem.
Three weeks ago, I have asked my supervisor to get the necessary permits to start operating a store. She brought all the relevant documents to the mall for feedback and approval.
Then she called me, “The Operations team said we do not have all the documents to open our store on time. They said that they will not allow us to ingress unless we already provide the necessary permits on hand.”
The issue was, I have already talked to the mall earlier in November to ask them to waive the requirements because the year was already ending. My email was delivered but remained unanswered. So, I assumed that their answer was no problem since we never really had any issues regarding permit applications when opening a store in other malls.
However, the week when we were going to open the store, the Operations Assistant informed us that she will refuse us to start operations unless we come up with the necessary permits.
I was livid —- I had no problems regarding getting the permit. But I had actually informed them earlier that I was requesting for a waiver on permits since it’s year end. If they had an issue with that, they should have replied to my email.
As it turned out, the teams in that mall were poorly coordinated. And while it was okay for one team for us to proceed without a permit, the Operations Department had a different view.
Consequently, the Operations Department had her running around in circles.
At the end of the day, I had to step in, go to the mall, and ask the Operations assistant myself, “Ultimately, what do you need from us so that we can operate on time?”
After we talked, I got the minimal list of requirements she needed to allow us to operate. It was doable in a one-week period but will allow us to operate with a few days delay.
“Would you penalize us for not opening on time especially since our delay in getting the permits is honestly not our entire fault since we were only informed this week that such permits were non-negotiable?” I asked.
“Yes, we will not charge you until you start operating. We will allow you to ingress your store but not operate until you give us the necessary documents.”
We opened with a two day delay but with zero penalty.
There was a lot of takeaways from this experience —- At work, we will encounter many issues. People will inform us why we cannot get what we want, and usually, it’s easier to just shrug off our shoulders and say, “Oh well, that is life.”
But a company with people who merely accept defeat is a company who will not be there in the long-term. In business, tasks need to be done on time, and unless we insist that they be finished in time, there will be a lot of heeing and hawing and nothing will get done.
This is unacceptable.
That is why, hindi pwedeng hindi. If you want to get anywhere, do not accept no for an answer. Have a good weekend everyone!