There’s no such thing as a stupid question

In all honesty, this post should have been titled, “What I learned from working in a night club”.

I genuinely believe that there are no stupid questions, only lazy people.

I’ll explain.

When I was at university I got a job at the local nightclub. Funnily enough it was the second nightclub I had ever been to in my life. Side note – I didn’t like the first night club I visited so I left my mates in there and went to the pizza restaurant across the road to get something to eat, then hung out in a snooker bar until they were ready to leave the club.

But I digress.

The week I was due to start my job my boss went on annual leave. She asked one of the oldest serving members of staff (let’s call him ‘Omar’) to show me the ropes. They didn’t have a training manual or a staff handbook and I remember Omar taking me on a tour of the building and using the phrase “you know how x works” a couple of times. In most cases I didn’t, and would say as much, so he’d explain… but only when I explicitly stated that I didn’t know something.

Here’s the thing… If you don’t know what you don’t know… ask questions. It’s not a stupid question if you genuinely don’t know the answer, and if you do know the answer, it’s not a real question, you’re just being awkward. LOL!

The first two weeks were fun. I worked behind the bar pulling drinks and chatting with the clubbers. The shifts weren’t too long night, the music wasn’t bad and I knew most of the clubbers from dorms.

The third week I was put in the cloakroom. Not a problem. I’d had training. I’d been taught two things…

  1. The check in process
    • Someone comes to the cloakroom
    • That someone pays me a pound
    • That same someone gives me their coat
    • I hang their coat up in the cloakroom
    • I put a raffle ticket onto their coat
    • I give them the matching raffle ticket. The end.
  2. The check out process
    • Someone comes along and gives me their ticket
    • I go into the cloakroom and retrieve the coat with the matching ticket.
    • I give that someone their coat. The end.

In hindsight,some questions I should have asked during my ‘training’ were:

  • What do I do with the tickets after the coat has been collected?
  • What if someone presents a ticket and there isn’t a coat with a matching ticket in the cloakroom?
  • What if someone accuses me of theft?

… but I didn’t ask any of these questions. I thought I knew how a cloakroom worked. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I might not know everything I needed to know, and I had assumed that if there was anything else I did need to know I would have been told.

Now those of you who were regular ravers can already see where this is going, but for the rest of us I’ll continue.

My first night in the cloakroom (and my manager’s first day back from leave) a young lady comes to retrieve a coat at the end of the evening. She gives me her ticket, the coat isn’t there. I ask her to describe it, it’s a lightweight bomber jacket. I check again and it isn’t there. So I tell her as much. Then I ask another member of staff what to do with the lady. They advise her to wait until the end of the evening as it had most likely fallen off the hanger.

At the end of the evening it became clear that the lady’s jacket was not there… and it may not have been her ticket either as she was by now describing her coat to the manager as a very expensive designer coat. Sigh.

Needless to say, Omar told the manager that he had trained me, the manager couldn’t believe that I didn’t know the procedure, – I believe her exact words were, “Haven’t you ever been to a nightclub before?”

I was fired, escorted off the premises and banned from attending the club for a year.

The irony.

The moral of the story is, “Read the fine print”. If there isn’t any, ask some questions or get out of there, and quickly!


Go from Freelancer to CEO in three easy steps

Tom Peters said it best when he said I want to be the CEO of Me Inc. Who else could possibly do me better than I can?

Working with a client on her launch recently I had the misfortune of installing software to the wrong folder of her live website. Not a big deal. I deleted the installation and reinstalled to the correct folder. No harm done… right?


It was a big deal. By installing it to the wrong place I’d wiped out her live website while she was running Facebook ads to the tune of hundreds of dollars a day. As I’m sure you can imagine, she was understandably not impressed.

Here’s the kicker. I’m on her tech team. I’m the one she calls in to fix this kind of stuff, so I was the last person she expected to cause this kind of problem.

Her response to the whole thing however taught me something important. Bearing in mind that until she spoke to me, she wasn’t aware what had caused the issue.

She called me and explained the problem. I realised my error and apologised. She asked how long it would take to fix, if there was anything she could do to remedy the issue faster and asked that I schedule installations with her in the future and avoid installing software during times when her site would be experiencing heavy traffic.

No harm, no foul.

Just in case you missed that… She identified the problem, asked that I fix it, asked how she could help, gave feedback and moved on.

Her response to the whole thing reminded me of the approach of the One Minute Manager. As you can imagine, I won’t be making that mistake again, and I will be following her advice (which in hindsight was just plain common sense).

When you run a lifestyle business, things pretty much depend on you and your team. The life of a CEO CAN be summarised in three easy steps.

1. Embrace failure

Fail small, fail fast, learn faster. Understand that if it can wrong, at some point it probably will. Be prepared to deal with the unexpected. It’s just part of running a business.

2. Learn from it

Pilot everything. Expect the first draft to be bad. It’s research into what could go wrong, and a chance for you to learn how to do it right or better the next time around. Understand that perfection is unrealistic.

3. Move on

The faster you learn, the faster you become better. Experience is a wonderful teacher. Take the ‘failure’ as a lesson and put solutions in place to avoid it happening again or to minimise the disruption to your business if it were to happen again.

What thing have you failed at recently, and what did you learn from the experience? Please share in the comments below.