Learn from our mistakes: The biggest lesson we’ve learnt this year


Sat watching the final of The Apprentice a few days ago, my attention was caught by someone (I forget who) saying that 90% of all new businesses fail in their first year. 

I don’t know whether that statistic is true or not. I suspect the failure rate is remarkably high though.  

Well, as we approach our first anniversary, I’m delighted to say we are here and thriving. However, I make no bones about it being a tough year, with many steep learning curves along the way. 

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt this year is about a vital member of your team. One who goes under the radar, but prevents numerous problems and will improve the credibility of your business immeasurably.  

Who is it?  

Your proofreader. 

Didn’t expect that, did you? 

Now, I grant you it’s not the most glamorous of positions. But it’s nevertheless a crucial one to fill. 

As any Apprentice candidate will tell you, head into a pitch with poorly proofed copy and your credibility immediately takes a nosedive.  

When we started the year, we published a couple of blogs in haste. Each had an error or two in them, including missing links. We are all human, but this wasn’t the impression I wanted to create for Yardstick. They say your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room and I didn’t want people saying anything negative about us. 

So, we plugged the gap and found a great proofreader. We also initiated a series of measures to stop errors creeping through. For example: 

  • We recognise that it’s almost impossible to proof your own work; so, we stopped trying 
  • Everything we send out is checked, double checked and triple checked 
  • We proof by printing the copy out, not on a screen 
  • We’ve instigated checklists to reduce the possibility of something being missed 

I’m sure we aren’t perfect (we’ve all read a book and spotted a typo) but by taking every precaution possible we’ve significantly reduced the chances of us making mistakes. 

The lesson advisers can learn? 

I believe it’s two-fold. 

Firstly, being consistent breeds confidence in your clients. Whether it’s an investment report, suitability letter, your terms of business or a piece of marketing, such as your website. Accurate copy, without mistakes will engender a feeling of confidence in the person reading it. 

Secondly, getting the proofing of your documents right will enhance your brand. The opposite is of course true. 


Even if you are convinced of the merits of what I’m saying, employing a full-time proofreader probably isn’t high on your list of priorities right now.  

That means finding a member of your team, or an outsourced option, to take on the task. It also means putting procedures in place to improve the chances of errors being found.  

It might sound like such a simple thing, but I truly believe that having a member of your team who can accurately proofread copy and content is worth their weight in gold. In many respects they are the guardian of your reputation.   

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