Ed Rickers | Crain's Connecticut

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

Ed Rickers

Background:  

Studies Weekly creates "engaging content learning experiences" using print media, illustrations and interviews with eyewitnesses of historical events. The goal is to engage students' critical thinking skills. The firm will reach 4.1 million elementary and middle school students in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico during the next school year.

The Mistake:

In 2001, we published an issue of our Michigan Studies Weekly newspaper that attempted to relate facts about the land in Michigan to a current event. One of our freelance writers found a story about whale migration that led us to print this, without it apparently being verified by our editors first: "Every spring, the freshwater whales and freshwater dolphins begin their 1,300-mile migration from Hudson Bay to the warmer waters of Lake Michigan."

Of course, there are no whales or dolphins in Lake Michigan. When this was pointed out to us, we planned an apology for a future weekly, but didn't get the word out quickly enough. Instead, the story was picked up by news outlets with huge audiences, and we got hate mail from everywhere, especially the academic elite. I felt like we were going to go out of business.

I delayed taking the responsibility.

The Lesson:

You have to take care of things immediately when they're important. Even if it costs way more than you wanted to spend, you've got to act and act quickly.

If I had a second chance to respond to that mistake, I would have sent a first class letter to our 1,200 classrooms using Michigan Studies Weekly. For less than $1,000, it would have been fixed.

Today, we're about 100 times bigger, and hopefully, that kind of mistake couldn't happen again. But when something comes up, you've got to take responsibility quickly. I delayed taking the responsibility.

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