Being in business is full of trails and errors, and mistakes are inevitable. While we aim for perfection, our flawed human nature and learning curve causes slip-ups and hindsight that can make us say, whoops! But when we take a client with us on the journey to learning from our missteps, we can feel, well, pretty lousy.

But before you rush to your email and deliver a note saying you’re sorry, there are a few things you must understand. For starters, there is an art to an effective apology – especially in the professional world where you want to retain those positive client relationships.

What an apology really isSuccessful business woman smiling

Don’t let your apology come across as robotic and just something to check off your to-do list. If you’ve made a mistake – own it and genuinely say you’re sorry.

And remember, an apology isn’t an explanation or the reason the mistake happened. It’s a sincere form of letting someone know that you’re sorry, and you’re correcting the error.

Get creative when righting the wrong

When you want to correct a mistake, you should not only get personal by letting the person know via phone or face-to-face (if this is an option for you), but you should be creative.

In most cases, you’ll find that your mistake cost someone time. So the best thing you can do is offer them something in return for the time that you wasted with your blunder.

A friend of mine who was involved with outside sales accidently forwarded an email with competitive bid pricing to the (yikes) top competitor. Her boss was furious at first, but after her face-to-face apology, she also sent an email and within the letter, she provided a solution.

She found a way to change the email setting so that when pricing was being distributed, you could only email it internally with just one quick click. This would mean that her mistake would save future events like this from occurring.

This is one time you shouldn’t procrastinate

When it comes to saying sorry, the key is to get it done as close to the mishap as possible. We know that you might be making a mountain out of a molehill and hiding under the covers.

But the best thing you can do is face the music because this enables you to put out the fire before it’s out of control and damages your business relationships.

Don’t dwell on it!

One thing you want to avoid is becoming the over-apologizer. I’ve seen people before who just can’t move on, and months later the first words out of their mouth are, “I’m still so sorry about that time…” Once you’ve made a solid and genuine apology, then accept that you’ve been forgiven and get back to business.

Apologies will come in all different sizes and forms, so be sure you take a good, hard look at the mistakes that were made, and find the strongest and most appropriate way to correct the issue so that everyone can move forward.