I recently shot a home in the Poconos and the owner, a self-made man, had built his business on handshakes. He had learned early in life how to read another person and know if the person was a person of their word. If he felt they were he would make a contract sealed with a handshake. If he said he was going to do the job, he did the job and he did it on time and at least at the level of quality promised.
The gift this man had was not a sixth sense or some magical ability. This man, we will call him ‘Al’, knew from an early age that a promise and a bit of hard work could take him far. It is questioned if he ever broke a promise or if it was even possible for him to do anything that was anything less than honorable and ethical. No one I have met has been able to remember a time that Al didn’t keep a promise.
Over time, Al became known for his word and his handshake. He would get business simply because if he said he would do the job you knew it would be done right and done well. Every time on every job he did whatever it took to get the job done right, on time and to a level of perfection few others could achieve. Al is a man of ethics.
Ethics. Corporations teach it to their employees; Some even make it a core value and insist that every employee live ethically. Yet not a week goes by that you don’t hear about someone that is arrested, fired or disciplined for acting unethically. But how many people, companies or governments are truly ethical? Can they live up to it if they have the chance to benefit from relaxing the ethics a just a little?
Our guy Al never compromised his ethics. He came from a humble background in a large city and never compromised. By sticking to his beliefs and doing the right thing Al made himself into a wealthy man. He is a man that lives as an example to others.
It is my belief that you have to trust people. You have to work an honest day’s work and not be afraid to admit errors, and be willing to correct them when they happen. You have to be willing to do the next right thing no matter what. Perhaps doing the next right thing is going to cost you some business today but in the long run it will get you more business.
One of the most powerful things in business today is a referral from a previous or current client. But a referral that speaks to how ethical you are speaks even louder, and to more people. We are all human and we all make mistakes, what separates us is how we handle mistakes and what we do with them. Do we overcome them or do we let them bring us down?
My goal in life and in business is to be honorable, ethical and trustworthy. I treat my clients the same way I treat my friends and I try to never make a promise I can’t keep. I am human and sometimes I make mistakes but I try to own up to them and I try to make them right no matter what the cost. Something I learned from Al and others like him is that …every handshake has meaning and every handshake has value.