This article was originally published in our newsletter, and it has garnered more responses than usual. Two kinds of responses - notes of agreement, and more unsubscribes than usual. It was loved and hated, so we are posting it here for more to read.
Does character really matter? Do people really care what kind of person they do business with? Many of us would say, "Yes, of course it does." But my observation is that fewer and fewer people really care anymore about the character of the person they are getting involved with. Instead, the attitude is, "What's in this for me?" They don't care who you are or what your business mindset is. They consider themselves too smart to be taken, so they don't even consider the type of people they will be doing business with. Let's get on with it and let the chips fall where they may.
As a result, we've seen a marked increase in lawsuits of many kinds, in discrimination and financial claims against business owners by employees, in clients not following the contract and paying for their jobs, in contractors filing for bankruptcy and a host of other problems that I'll argue are a sign of poor character.
You can't always determine if the person you are about to do business with is ethical or not. That's why every job requires a clear contract. But you do know whether or not you are ethical. Whether or not you choose to operate your business with integrity or not is within your control. Dwight Moody said, "Character is what you are in the dark."
So let's talk about that contract. All too often I see contracts that are written with all kinds of gray areas included. The contractor is not sure how to do something or they want the ability to hedge on things down the road to save money. So they write a flowery contract that gives them all the room in the world to build the job any way they want. A good example would be a contract that states, "Contractor will furnish and install new countertops in the kitchen with an installed allowance amount of $7.50 per square foot." Notice no material specifications, brands, make or type of materials, just a rough number on a square foot basis. Notice also, no mention of the number of square feet of countertop to be installed, let alone anything about backsplashes, edging, finish, etc.
Then there are those who cut corners on the job where it won't be noticed. We are back to what you do in the dark. A good example would be the amount of blown in insulation that is installed in an existing wall behind plaster or the thickness of blanket insulation that is being installed on a job that wasn't permitted, knowing full well that it won't be inspected.
Do you treat your clients right? Do you return their phone calls, keep all your appointments on time, and do what you said you would do? How about your employees? This includes having an employee manual so there is no doubt in anyone's mind what the company policy is on most issues.
As long as we are talking about treating others in a good manner, do you have a manual in place that governs your work with your subcontractors? Do you communicate, keeping them posted and up to date on all the jobs? Ditto with your suppliers. Do you pay both on time and as agreed, or do you constantly look for ways to pay them late, not in full or at all?
How are you treating your spouse and your children? Are you spending good quality time with them or do they come in a distant third behind you and your business? Do you give of yourself to make sure their life is as good as it can be? No YaButs here, either you do or you don't.
Speaking of your spouse, do they support you and your hobby or does your business provide it's fair share of the family income? If your business does not or cannot pay all the bills, then you need to take a look at what you are doing, as there is obviously something wrong. Again, no YaButs. Either the business pays the bills or you have a hobby.
And finally, here is a question that I must ask. Based on stuff we see in the media almost every day anymore, are you truly committed to your spouse? Are you 100% faithful to him or her? I have said many times that as a marriage goes, so goes your business, but not necessarily the other way around. If your marriage is not good, there is no way in the world that your business will survive and do well. That said, being faithful to your spouse is paramount to your success.
Character matters because what you do every day adds up. Some of the things you think you are doing in the dark can come out in the light. Your character will determine if you do them right.