I just learned a huge lesson - or maybe I just had a bad day. Business ownership isn't all sunshine and roses as all business owners will tell you. I just got back from the post office, delivering a refund check to a client for a mistake that I made.

The title of this is Dan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If you have kids you're probably familiar with a book by a similar name – instead of Dan, it was Alexander. 

Alexander's Day wasn't so bad...

To begin with, let's start back a little bit to kind of set up things and explain. As 2020 started, Wapiti has taken a really strong focus on web design-related services and consulting. It turns out that the majority of my clientele originally hires me for that, then we move into doing advertising and other digital marketing as well. Since the trend has been clients wanting a new website or refreshes done to their existing website, it seemed natural to go the way of the market (even though I’ve always bucked the idea of being just a “web guy”). If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know I’ve strongly spoken out against being a web design company in the past and my thoughts and opinions that have led me to that outspoken opinion. They are still true and valid because I’m so much more than just web design, and I never actually quote a client purely on web design. However, it has become my main headliner of sorts because that is generally what they want. If you go to the BrandShouter.com website, the very first words that greet you on the front page is “We Make Websites.” You'll see a redesign and a new approach with my marketing to try to continue bringing in the “lowest hanging fruit of clients” that are out there for me. So that's a little setup on what's been happening in 2020.

Now to get to my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I've been doing advertising for a client for about four years now. Over time, as the Google ads are running, you learn more and go in and adjust. Well, it was time for me to do a broad rebuild of a lot of his ads. We'd learned enough, broke apart ad groups so that we're targeting the right people with the right messaging, and came up with new ads that hopefully pull better based on what we'd learned. I had personally taken it on myself to completely rebuild his ads, which was awesome. The end goal was that he'll see more conversion and benefit from that. I got it all set to go, and there was a blank for a budget. I knew that this particular client's budget was $1,000 a month. So I decided to put that thousand in there for now and disable his old ad group.

Gone with the Wind

Then I got a text from him two nights ago. “Hey Dan, Google just charged me $2,000. What's up?” Even though I didn't know I had done anything wrong, the second I saw that text it's like my brain clicked, and I'm like, “Oh, no.” All my bad moves came rushing back to me. First off, the budget line wasn't for a monthly budget. It was a daily budget. I put his monthly budget in the daily budget; so it was set up to spend $1,000 a day versus $1,000 a month. The second problem happened when I pushed it. I am kind of unfamiliar with the desktop tool and have always used the web interface. This time, I used the Google AdWords editor tool on my desktop because it allowed for quicker copy and paste and moving things around so that I could build the new ad campaign a lot faster. When I pushed it, I didn't realize it was pushing live. In retrospect, I realize I should have known that, but in the moment, I didn't. I also hadn't set the location yet, so advertising wasn't targeted to his area. It was just nationally targeted when I pushed it up to the web. He's a local service business, so that doesn't help him. 

I shut off his ads right away and yesterday we had further conversation so I could explain the problem I created. I had to own up to it, as much as I'd love to blame somebody else. So, I ended up spending around $2,040 of my money, wasted completely. For a small business, that's a decent chunk. I'll survive, but I would rather not have to survive it. I even contacted Google a couple of times but they’re unwilling to help me, so that’s kind of sad. (I feel like there should be some forgiveness mechanism in there, especially since ads don't cost them anything.) It was my fault, so I guess I can't get up in arms. I just wish they would’ve worked with me a little bit. 

Compiling Negativity

There have also been some other negative business situations this past month. One was simply the kind of situation where no matter how well you think you run your business and no matter how much you try to do and focus on the right thing, inevitably there's going to be at least one person who's unhappy with what you do. I don't know if it's pride or what, but I take it personally when somebody leaves, even though I try not to. Overall I want to keep everybody happy, have them stay with me, and know that I take care of them. It has felt like a rough month; maybe a rough couple months. This trip to the post office was the final gut punch. Fortunately, this client is a great client and was totally understanding. Of course, it's easy to be understanding when somebody writes you a check for their screw up, but he's still a great guy and I’m not losing him as a client. 

As I was driving home last night, I started seeing how this could be an interesting and slightly entertaining story of a business guy who screwed up and cost himself a bit of money. I began thinking about how it’s hard sometimes to focus on the good when you have negatives. I continued thinking about the things that are important in life. Business is my passion; I wrap a lot of myself into it, and when things go wrong it’s not enjoyable. But it is helpful to put things in perspective: I’ve got four healthy kids and a beautiful wife. It’s always important to focus on what’s good and positive in front of you because you just never know when the “good things” could change. 

My Takeaways

I guess maybe if I could leave any takeaway with you, it would be to pay attention to what matters in life. For me, my business is what I love to do, and it’s also kind of my hobby. It provides for my family, and it’s also something that I want to grow, adding employees and capabilities. However, realistically, my priorities are feeding my family, having a roof over our heads, and having a family that is growing and learning and feeling loved. These are what’s really important in my life. 

It's an important thing for all business people to put in perspective their failures and their successes. Toward the end of 2019, Wapiti was exploding with business. We had new business left and right, and existing business was growing – that can become an all-consuming feeling. When business is booming, you want to focus and spend time on your business because it is doing so well. Success comes with its own stresses: how am I going to keep up with the growth, who am I going to hire next, and what am I going to do next? Then there’s the “winter months,” which for a lot of agencies this is your down months, and that throws the perspective the other direction. Therefore, keeping your eye on what's important in life will help you mitigate the ups and downs of business. 


I screwed up advertising for a client and spent two months’ worth of budget in two days. I ended up having to write a check to the client, which was not a fun solution for me. In spite of that problem and everything else that had been dragging me down this month, I was, fortunately, able to see things in a greater light and focus on the things that are more important. I've come out the other end, a little less money in the pocket, but still doing well and moving forward. 

For those doing advertising, please make sure that your daily budget is set to a daily budget, not to a monthly budget. It makes a really big difference. I can always be thankful I typed in a thousand and not $10,000.