Leadership Lesson from a Financial Failure

This is the fourth post in our blog series about lessons learned from failures. Over the next couple months we will have guest posts every week from some truly impressive people who will share their insights with our readers. Please come back every Friday and follow the series. This weeks post comes to us from JC Otero.

One failure that comes to mind that I was able to turn into a leadership life lesson is when I joined four friends to put on an all day music event that went so horribly wrong that we ended up owing money after it was all said and done. Between the five of us, we pooled together $30k to throw a free all day concert. Our business model was to profit from selling tickets to the event and raffle tickets for a big prize giveaway. We thought the prize and concert lineup would be well received by the target audience but we soon found out how wrong we were. By the time the final band came on stage, we had only sold 20% of our goal and somehow we were going to owe an additional $6k after the event for some additional costs we added leading up to increase pre-sale tickets.

Luckily, I was on the lower end of the ownership scale and was not as down on the loss as others in the group. As a result, I had written this experience off as a costly educational experience in how to and how not to put on an event of this scale. But half an hour before the drawing, I learned that the group had decided, without me, that they were going to rig the drawing so that a mutual contact could win. The agreement they made with this contact was that he would win and in some weeks he would return the prize so that they could sell it to recoup some of their losses. In turn he would be compensated and everyone would win. Well that plan did not sit well with me and I had to voice my strong disagreement with this unethical and possibly illegal decision.

Although I did my best to convince the group otherwise, it fell upon deaf ears and they told me they were going to move forward with it either way. Having said all I could, I reached out to some people I trusted and got some great advice. The common advice was to stick to my guns and do what is right because everything will work out for the best if I do. After speaking with these mentors of mine, I came up with the idea of doing the next best thing. If I could not convince the group to do the right thing of doing the random drawing as planned, then perhaps I could get the intended winner to agree not to return the prize. This way we still gave away the prize but had no way of recovering a portion of our losses through the sale of the prize.

Coincidentally, the person the group made this arrangement with was a close family friend of mine and he only agreed because he thought it would help me. I reached out to him and explained that I was unaware of the arrangement and that although I appreciated him doing this to try and help me; I prefer that he help me by breaking his agreement with the group and not return the prize after being awarded it. He agreed and I broke the news to the group after they awarded the prize to him and all the paperwork was signed over to him.

As you can imagine the group was pretty irate because they were anticipating a recovery of a third of the funds lost through the sale of the prize. Although I was not able to make them do the right thing, I stood by what I knew to be right and did what I could. Afterwards one person from the conspiring group came to me and shared that in the craze of realizing the financial loss he was facing, that he was not thinking clearly and placed a dollar amount on his integrity. He thanked me for doing what I did, even though it resulted is none of us being able to recoup any portion of our losses, and most importantly he thanked me for leading by example. He was ashamed of his behavior and wanted me to know that my positive leadership really impacted him. This experience taught me and others that we must always do what is right, even when it does not benefit us. I learned that being a leader is not about being right all the time, but that being a leader is about doing what is right all the time, not just some of the time when it’s beneficial.

JC Otero is a Social Entrepreneur who is always exploring opportunities where he can make the biggest impact. Earlier this year he received his MBA from Concordia University Texas. He uses his entrepreneurial vision and experiences to pioneer positive social change. Please visit www.TheEnvisioneer.com to learn more.

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