Great leaders use their lesson learned as a compass to cultivate future success.
In this leadership issue, we ask three industry veterans:

What is the one mistake in your past that helped
you become the leader you are today?

Leaders Learn from MistakesGary Udell

Co-owner of Gerry Udell, Inc.

every executive or leader makes numerous
mistakes throughout his or her career. (I am
still making them!) The key is to learn from
these mistakes and to capitalize on them.

If I had to pick one big mistake that has
influenced my future decisions, it would be
an incident early in my career when I turned
down the opportunity for my company to
carry a product line that later became an extremely
popular and successful line, and one
that would have made our firm a lot of money.

I based my decision on the promise of a
manufacturer that we represented at the time
who assured me his company was about to
launch, within a year, a very similar product.
Not only was the time-frame incorrect, the
promised product line never came to fruition.

I still support, encourage and take the
promises and dreams of my manufacturer
partners into consideration, but I learned that
business decisions must be based on tangible
details and concrete facts if you are going
to lead your company in the right direction.

Gather the facts and then assume your
leadership by being decisive.

Leaders Learn from MistakesDon Shedrow

General Manager of InfraShine, Inc.

I was working as a sales agency representative
and was offered the opportunity to sell
a line of professional appliances. The brand
was not large or well known, and I simply
didn’t take the time to research the products
or the manufacturer or to evaluate the potential
this could have had for my company.
I basically just let this opportunity get away
from me by not making the appropriate effort
to either accept or turn down the offer. After
approaching others, that brand took off and
made a lot of money for a lot of other people.
I lost a great opportunity by simply not paying
attention and taking action.

Today, as general manager for another
successful line of appliances, I look at every
offer or situation as an opportunity, and give
each its due thought and appropriate action.
This philosophy applies to all aspects of business—
not just sales but management, staffing
and even product development.

As a leader you have to set the standard
for a great work ethic and follow through on
every detail. This early mistake was painful at
the time, but became a very important lesson
that I have come to appreciate immensely.

Leaders Learn from MistakesPatrick McIvor

Artistic Color Director for Matrix and
owner of Patrick McIvor Color Studios

New Jersey. At that time, I really just wanted to
work for someone else, but because of several
circumstances, I wound up opening my own
place. I wanted to target clients in this suburb
where many of the people worked in New York
City and were familiar with the work I had done
there. I had an almost instant clientele and my
hair coloring received recognition from the national
consumer press. So what was the mistake?

As my father told me, I was “too busy
robbing gas stations to be able to plan a good
bank robbery.” In other words, I was so busy
at the salon that I didn’t make time to train a
team—all the learning was by osmosis and I
was just figuring things out as I went along.

When I returned to New York City and
worked with Nick Arrojo and Rodney Cutler,
I decided I would not be the number one producer
in the color department. My goal was to
be number two or three while I was working to
build the department and train the best team.

The approach is called POP (pride, opportunity
and purpose) and I make sure our team
members are proud of our salon, get opportunities
they won’t get at other salons (Fashion
Week, photo shoots, education, travel) and work
purposefully within the systems we use for
servicing guests. I’ve learned from leadership
experts like Bill Gates whose “Think Week”
teaches that it takes time to make things better
and you (as the leader) can’t be constantly
working yourself during that time.


Do you have a hot topic on which you’d
love to see different perspectives from
the industry? Send it to Stacey Soble
at [email protected] and
we’ll get the dialogue started.