How to Learn from your Mistakes and Innovate, Even with Limited Resources

Written by Rafael Sanchez, Vice President of Business Development and Legal Affairs

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

– John C. Maxwell

Everyone makes and learns from their mistakes, and I truly believe this is an important part of the evolution of any organization. Companies that foster an environment to allow people to learn from mistakes grow and innovate 10x better than those that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong; you cannot accept careless mistakes as the norm. As long as you are working hard, making your clients’ business the best it can be, and trying new things – mistakes and learning lessons will always be a small bi-product.

My motto is: You only fail by not admitting that you can get better.

There’s a common misconception that only large organizations that have the overhead, funding, and bandwidth to make mistakes can learn from them. In my experience, I’ve seen some of the most successful companies – with some of the most limited resources, like non-profit organizations – make the most progressive decisions when it comes to innovating and profiting from mistakes long-term.

So how do you make the most of your mistakes, with limited resources, and innovate all at the same time?



Don’t be afraid to try.

Inline with learning from your mistakes, innovation doesn’t come from a comfortable place. You can’t be too cautious to where you aren’t trying anything new. Get second opinions, ask Millennials, and talk to clients.

When innovating, you must take the perspective that “no idea is a bad idea.” Create a no-judgment zone where people feel free to express their ideas. A great example of this is “FedEx Day” wherein FedEx carves out a certain amount of time to allow employees to innovate and offer ideas. There’s no limit to the valuable information you can use to innovate and learn from, and it is vital to incorporate time and energy into ideation, in order to transform your business.


As a business you know who you are, and who you aren’t.

Be honest about what you do best and what you don’t do well. At Fineline, though it is a rarity, we aren’t afraid to turn down work. Over-promising and under-delivering is only “short-changing” your clients’ success. Be smart by asking the right questions to meet the customers’ expectations and do what is right for both businesses.


Take losses as best you can, and use them to your advantage as ways to innovate.

Any company in the service industry will lose some customers and gain some every year – so don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes it’s the result of factors outside of your control, like budget or immediate need.

Servicing clients is a never-ending learning process. If you take the time upfront to revisit client goals and needs frequently, you can learn faster and stay ahead of the curve – both in business innovation and adjusting to client workload. Not to mention this also helps with the sales pipeline and project management planning.

Fineline uses a self-evaluation tool, or what we like to call our “Annual Business Reviews,” to determine where we can improve and better serve our clients. A lot of companies lock in clients and forget that servicing is just as important. You can’t take your eye off of the ball. Embed evaluations and ongoing client communication into company culture and processes, and it will always stay top-of-mind.


Keep your eye on continuous improvement.

At Fineline Printing Group, our Director of Quality & Continuous Improvement, Jason Hoffman, is constantly looking for ways to improve the processes and learning from mistakes. In his Thought Leadership Article, he talks about the benefits of working with lean organizations, including the benefit of reduced costs passed on to clients. Having an individual dedicated to continuous improvement not only reflects the ideals of an organization, but proactively demonstrates innovation within it.


Leverage technology and streamline processes – even with limited resources.

Every business is evolving with the speed of technology, and this makes innovation a MUST. Look for new ways to innovate your business, and take advantage of programs and technology others have created to help you and your business.

With the changing print industry over the past 20 years, Fineline and our clients have learned how important it is to adapt with technology and innovate. One way we’ve done this is by creating a cross-channel marketing technology named Finelink 1.0, and soon to be released Finelink 2.0. We listened to our clients, we listened to our industry and we’ve come up with a way to streamline our clients’ resources. In a nutshell, the online portal takes time consuming and costly tasks, like inventory management, digital asset management, online editing and print on-demand, and allows users to streamline the tactical and focus on other responsibilities that are more instrumental to their mission.


I hope this article has inspired you to turn your mistakes into positive learning lessons. It’s amazing how coming from a good place and doing the right things by your clients can not only change business success, but the cultural legs it stands on.


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