Friday, September 2, 2011

The Handshake and the Deal

When I first got married I ran a construction company. I actually met my wife working on one of the properties she managed. Once we were married, she began to see the behind-the-scene workings of the business and how I interacted with the men who worked for me.

One of the young men who had worked for us for quite some time was a handsome young buck with a great smile and knew how to interact with the clients. He was always a favored worker because he was so good with customers and usually got his work completed on time. My wife thought he was fantastic.

But as with any person or employee there are almost always things that come up, problems or personal habits that can be hard on a business operator. My star buck started to get to work late, over and over; not a lot, 10 or 15 minutes, but it was every day. For the most part he would get us all laughing or create a diversion and lighten the moods of everyone; everyone but me.

I talked to him for weeks trying to explain how important it was to be there earlier than his crew. It was important for him to be the example and if he was always late then they would think it was OK for them to be late, as well. There are a lot of reasons why I had to tell him he only had one more chance and that day he seemed to take it seriously. The next day I took his keys and fired him when he came in late.

A lot of folks thought I had made a big mistake. Customers were asking for him and a few of the guys on his team left soon after.

I, however, was not moved by their pleas and angry comments. I have a rule I live by – if a man (or woman) shakes my hand and agrees to do something then I expect them to do their part, no excuses. If I have agreed to pay a certain amount for certain hours to do certain things, then I will do it and I have never missed a payroll.

I know a lot of guys, men, who still show up late to things because they struggle getting out of bed or they call in sick because they don’t feel like doing something. There are guys who cancel because they get a better offer and abandon obligations they have made previously. I don’t profess perfection in any area but I do, however, want my kids to grow up and respect the obligations they make to others. I will be the example; they will have to choose if they follow it.

There were plenty of times I underbid a job or just plain goofed up and to finish the job it was going to cost us. We completed the job as agreed. It hurt and some folks may have walked on their commitments; we never did.

Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” When MJ had a practice, he arrived early and stayed a few minutes later than everyone else. When he was young he shot the ball over and over. He didn’t do the least and expect the most. He didn’t blow off his team mates to do a Pepsi commercial or hang with Tiger Woods. He was committed and showed up.

Jesus tells the story of the wealthy man giving three servants gold coins to keep while he was away. Two invested them and one buried his. Now, we won’t go through the whole verse but to the ones who took their coins and invested them, who took their obligation seriously he replied: Luke 19:17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ the master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, you will take charge of much.’”

Trust, success, obligation and a man’s word all matter. A handshake, a nod, the words “I will,” “I agree” and “Yes” matter. In a world that, for many, consists of many gray areas, in-betweens, maybes and modest amounts of true commitment, we can be fooled into thinking that it is that way for everyone and, thus, acceptable. It is not.

Today we live in a world that needs strong commitment. A person who has a reputation of doing what they say and saying what they mean stands out. They lead and set the bar for those who choose to follow.

I don’t expect a man to do something that would hurt his family, himself or others. I know that there are times when we are fooled into something that turns out to be different than what we were told or how it was represented. Discernment, prayer, asking for council from a wise or trained and trusted friend is important is these situations.

But the basic rule of thumb when it comes to honor, trust and reputation is simple. When the alarm goes off, get up. When you agree to do a job for a man, do it even if it costs you. When God speaks to you, listen and obey. Stand up for what you believe, do what you say, get your brothers back, get there early and stay late, give yours plus one.

Trust is the key to many a door when lost, so the opportunity to open those doors is lost as well. Yeah, I’m a hard guy sometimes but the basic truths remain. I get too nervous to hit the snooze, just my luck that would be the one day I should have been there. That would be the day Jesus comes to the coffee shop to just talk, the rich guy is walking around handing out $100 bills, the biggest buck walks past my deer blind and the kitchen remodel guy on TV was at the Home Depot looking for a kitchen to redo, free! No, I’m getting up, we need a dishwasher and stove.

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