I have been asking myself that question all day. How would I react if I owned that ship, and employed the captain that sunk it. How would you react?

We now know how Costa Cruises would react because they issued a statement, less than 48 hours after the incident, in which they say that there may have been “significant human error” on Francesco Schettino’s part. There very well may be, but I cringed when I read it. Although understandable, people are looking for someone to blame, as an entrepreneur I would have handled it differently.

Lets make this easier to digest; assume you have a startup where you offer a service to users. One day a customer comes in and says “One of your employees has been a real jerk to me. He mistreated me and I demand that you fire him”.

What would you say? Where is your loyalty? Is it to your customer? The customer is always right, right? So do you yield? And what about your employees? What about working as a team? How bad is it for morale if you just take the side of the customer without asking the employee first?

So that is what you do. You comfort the customer, talk to the employee, get all the facts and then decide.

The easy thing to do is to agree with the customer and say ‘You are right, if that is true and that is how you were treated we will fire that employee”. But maybe the reason why that employee acted that way is because you were trying to cut costs and made it impossible for him to help the customer any other way. If it turns out that there is a perfect reason for what happened and that it was your fault, who are you going to fire? Yourself?

In a way it reminds me of guys who are really negative about their ex-girlfriends. When they go on and on about what a horrible person she is I can’t help but think that also says something about them. Apparently they are incredibly bad at judging people if they hooked up with that horrible person.

The same goes for Costa Cruises. Of course all we hear right now sounds like the captain screwed up. But that is just speculation. It could very well be that the captain did a great job but the company hired only second-rate personal to assist him. Or maybe he had been begging for a new sonar installation and they wouldn’t give it to him. Either way, nobody knows exactly what happened, yet.

If I would have been Costa Cruises I would have said something like this: “we hire only the best people in the world to handle our cruise ships. Francesco Schettino one of the most experienced captains in our fleet which is why we trusted him with our 400 million ship, and the 4000 people on it. We don’t know what caused this terrible accident but we will do everything in our power to find out what happened.”

If it turns out that the captain made a grave error then you can always punish him later. But starting with throwing him to the wolves, before you know exactly what happened, is a cheap and dumb move. As an entrepreneur you have an obligation to help the customer in every way you can, but sacrificing your employees is not one of them.