Todd Hopkins | Crain's Boston

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Todd Hopkins

Background:  

Office Pride, a commercial cleaning business, was founded in 1992 in Indiana and in 2012 moved its corporate headquarters to Palm Harbor, Fla., just west of Tampa. It began franchising in 1996 and today has 123 locations in 23 states across the United States, including five in the Tampa Bay region. Founder and CEO Todd Hopkins is the author of several business books that deal with topics ranging from entrepreneurship to workplace culture and values.

The Mistake:

I was slow to stop dwelling on mistakes.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes – I think it goes with the turf. Over 25 years, it would be unreasonable to expect a CEO not to make a lot of mistakes. But I would say the underlying big mistake is that I would tend to dwell on mistakes instead of learning from them. If I made a mistake, I would eventually learn from it, but in general, I was slow to stop dwelling on mistakes.

I like to tell a story about watching my son play in a big baseball game, and he hit this long fly ball that hit the top of the fence but fell just back inside the field. I couldn’t believe that it didn’t go over for a home run. He got under it too much. I was dwelling on the fact that he had a bit too much of an uppercut swing, when I should have been celebrating that he hit a double.

This is something I’ve only just figured out in the past 18 months. I would wake up in the middle of the night, at four in the morning, thinking about something that happened four years ago, that didn’t matter, but I’m reliving it. "OK, so I made a mistake four years ago. Why am I even thinking about that, really?" And then I’d go to work tired, so I’m not able to give my best for the day ahead. And everybody here needs me to lead them for the future. They don’t want me thinking about something that happened four years ago that didn’t matter, something that nobody else even remembers. And if you walk around stressed and dwelling all the time, who’s gonna want to work for you?

Everybody knows that they should learn from mistakes and not dwell. But it wasn’t until last year that I just intentionally decided, “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m done dwelling.”

If you walk around stressed and dwelling all the time, who’s gonna want to work for you?

The Lesson:

A significant difference between successful and unsuccessful people in their pursuit of goals and dreams is their ability to flip the switch and not dwell on a mistake or something they didn’t do, but instead to learn from it. The quicker we can shift into learn mode and not dwell, we’ll see that learning is all about moving forward and growing, and dwelling is about getting stuck. And when we’re dwelling, we’re also not having fun – it’s stressful.

If I had known when I started what I know now ... I could have had a lot more fun along the way. Dwelling leads to a lot of stress. But I want excellence. I mean, I want our customers to be happy. If we could have 99 customers happy and one unhappy, the one I’m thinking about is the unhappy one, right? So, my propensity would be to dwell on that one little thing [that made them unhappy]. I just don’t think our bodies were cut out for that.

My favorite question to ask myself – and I've done this for 25 years – is this: “It doesn't have to be this way, so what needs to change for it to not be this way?” Well, I don't have to wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about something that doesn't matter or dwelling on something. So what needs to change? Well, I need to be intentional about flipping that switch to learn mode faster.

Follow Office Pride on Twitter at @OfficePride.

Photo courtesy of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services

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