Wharton – Essay 2 – Describe a setback or a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)
One professional setback that I still regret happened almost two years ago, when I first took over the China operations of High Country Linens (HCL), my family business, without any previous experience in the textile industry or in a management role. I was eager to assert my independence and to prove my ability to my father, the CEO of HCL, and to the entire company.
My first major task was handling a $1.5 million sheet order for QVC, an important client. I did not communicate with our sales team in the US – who directly ...view middle of the document...
This QVC order was to use an entirely different look, which he was about to send to me.
I was devastated. Not only had I not saved time, I had wasted around $15,000 worth of useless bags and inserts, equivalent to the annual salaries of 4 office staff or 10 factory workers in China. My father, the CEO – who had been consistently supportive up to that point – took me aside to emphasize the importance of this mistake. Never before had I felt such a feeling of failure.
I discovered two valuable lessons from this experience. First, taking the time to attend to details is necessary to eliminate careless losses and to protect profit margins. Moreover, creating clear lines of team communication is one of the most crucial tasks at any company. After the incident, I implemented new processes and communication channels (e.g., weekly conference calls between China and the US) to safeguard our future profits. These measures add 20 hours more to my work week, but I can directly attribute much of HCL’s current success to my initial failure.
For instance, two months after the incident I received a larger QVC order, worth $5 million. One of the safeguards I had put in place revealed that there was a quantity discrepancy between the numbers from our sales rep and the buyer. I called the sales rep to confirm, and he admitted to making a careless mistake. Per my new process, I also emailed the buyer before sending the final spec sheets over to the factory, and – as it turned out – the buyer decided to change the packaging at the last minute. After one last confirmation by my team, I finally put the order into production with confidence. In this way, my new system prevented not only a $500,000 mistake, but also many more in the future.