This is an excerpt from the twenthieth edition of The Write Fit, a fortnightly newsletter about writing, editing and proofreading, content marketing and good editorial practices for business, from Sarah Mitchell and Dan Hatch at Typeset.
You wanna hear a horror story?
It’s G-rated. I promise. But it’ll give you chills.
This is how you lose half a million dollars in three simple moves.
As they used to say on the Freaky Stories cartoons, this is a true story. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine. It happened just last week.
It was a day like any other day in lockdown. Teams working remotely, keeping in touch via Zoom, trying to keep a big project on schedule.
Everyone was under pressure. The delivery deadline was looming. Half the team had been furloughed. Everyone had taken a pay cut to keep their jobs. No one’s home internet connection was working at corporate speed. Group work by distance was proving challenging. Most worryingly of all, the pipeline of future work was bare. This one big project was keeping people busy but… what next?
There are probably elements of the above scenario that will feel familiar to you. What happens next could so easily happen to anybody. Perhaps it’s happened to you?
But good news! The company was invited to tender for a new project by an old client. The work was worth half a million dollars — just what they needed to keep the business afloat and the team employed.
The boss asked one of the team to reply to the tender and send it off. He expected the employee to do this at the same time as he did his usual job. After all, with everything going on, neither of them could afford to be pulled away from the main project.
Under stress and fearing he’d lose his job if the company didn’t win the tender, the employee squeezed this task into his day. To make it easier on himself, he cut-and-pasted great passages from an old submission for another project and tinkered with it a bit.
With the job done, he fired it off to the client.
You’re probably ahead of me here and can already see what happened.
When “tinkering” with the copy, the employee didn’t pick up everything that needed to be changed. In fact, at one point he actually left in the name of the original company.
You wanna know how that went down with the client?
As we used to say in the playground, “like a cup of cold sick.”
Not only did the company not win the tender, the client felt completely disrespected. It damaged a long-standing relationship. Will they ever be invited to work with this client again? I don’t know. But that’s about the quickest and silliest way I know to lose half a million dollars.
Now, I’m sure there are management lessons here, but I’m not a management consultant. I do, however, know a lot about editorial quality-control processes. These are three simple moves that could have stopped the mistake being made and prevented the loss of the tender.
Now if you remember Freaky Stories, you might think perhaps this tale is just another urban legend — a scary campfire story designed to make the blood run cold. But this is a true story.
It happened to a friend of a friend of mine.
3 June 2020
The above is just one small part of our fortnightly newsletter. It’s jam-packed with excellent advice, tips and news for anyone who writes for their business. Get your own copy here: