My husband is a video producer. In many ways, his line of work is very similar to mine: we take a bunch of people and their personalities and ideas, mix them together, and make an experience out of it. He’s working for a corporate client right now, on what is a seemingly impossible task. I won’t go into the details, but there are countless numbers of things that are challenging with this project. They will need to shoot six interviews and then edit them overnight into six pieces for a presentation the next day. It really shouldn’t be too difficult, except for the fact that every committee member will want to see the work ahead of time, and then add their input... often clashing and contradicting one another in the process. Such is the world of approval by committee: 10 members, 10 opinions, 10 versions... My husband will do his best (he always does), but there is a very daunting possibility of failure. However, as my husband was told by his client: “It may not be your fault... but it is your problem.”
When he told me this, I was struck by this statement and the implications that it brings with it. I realized, “By god... that should be the motto of my company!”
I can’t begin to tell you the number of unpaid hours we’ve spent rectifying situations that were beyond our control. Whether it was the guest count going up the night before an event, a performer falling ill the morning of a party, inclement weather, or the party location forgetting to send the person to open up the facility -- “It’s not your fault... but it is your problem.”
This brings me to why people actually hire me: to take on their problems and make them disappear. Everyone wants the blissful, happy, wonderful party experience. They want laughing faces, smiling children, hugging adults, a world of joy and pleasure. They want their child to hug them that night before they go to bed and say, “Thank you for the best day of my life.” Of course, what they really need is an awesome photographer who can capture those moments for them, because nine times out of ten, there is so much going on that the hosts don’t even get to experience the full party, and it’s only in photos that they can relive the full effect.
The problem is that life has a way of butting in. Your child’s best friend’s mother flakes, and thinks the party is next week instead of this week, and your kid ends up staring out the window in anticipation of their arrival for thirty minutes before they can be persuaded to join the party. The dog jumps up on the dining room table and devours half the cake while the guests are playing Duck, Duck, Goose outside. Uncle Joe ends up getting loaded and falling into the pool, and the princess character you hired, who is a certified lifeguard, leaps in to save him, revealing that the pink princess dress becomes see-through when wet, and your Princess is wearing a thong.
I think, unfortunately, that if you charge for a service, then you are held responsible for everything that happens around that service too. I’ve done this in the past many a time: taken the heat for something that was clearly not my fault. Take for example the client who completely forgot to seat her sister-in-law at a table at her son’s Bar Mitzvah. Just completely left her off the list. I had no idea who she was, what her connection was, anything... Once I figured it out, I of course said it was my mistake, and I was sooo sorry, and took care of that situation right away. I’m sure there was a huge lambasting of my name in that household for a good week afterwards, but at least my client never felt the sting... that could have become a nasty family feud.
It does make me think though. In a world where everyone wants to blame everyone else for everything, what would happen if we took responsibility for our failings? What if we each took it upon ourselves to own our mistakes? Perhaps the world might be a little friendlier, a little more accepting, and a little kinder. Because let’s face it, if you have to admit that you make mistakes it’s easier to accept that someone else makes mistakes, and soon everyone is a bit more tolerant and might start working together instead of pulling apart.
I wonder if that motto could be changed... ”It might be my fault, but let’s solve it together.”