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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Work Ethic and Character

I've spent a lot of time talking about business and the "industry".  I think there is more to life that just that and I want to relate some things about that - particularly on the "people" end.

I have a friend who I've consistently and regularly played music with for many years.

This guy makes his living playing out and has raised a couple of kids doing it - all without outside help, i.e., no food stamps, no state aid, nothing.  Now, he's not Elton John or anything like that, and he plays primarily in working mans bars on weekends - so you can imagine that he is, as they say, "really good and barely getting by".

For part of that same time I've had my business and many employees - since about 1994 I figure I've had probably at least a 125 unique employees.  These folks have ranged from minimum wage mailroom workers to 100K a year CEOs, consultants and marketing people.   Similarly I have worked with a lot of customers and vendors over the years - everything from part time bookkeepers to Fortune 500 companies.

On thing I have seen is that, barring drug and related problems, the "working man" is a whole lot more honest and reliable than many of the expensive, high-end folks.  Now don't get me wrong - I've had my share of problems with low-wage employees - but, all things being equal, even problem low wage employees are less of a problem than expensive ones.  (And not to say all high payed folks cause problems either.)

On the high end I've had issues as well.  When someone makes a lot of money these days there seems to be a strong sense of "entitlement" that goes with it - particularly when things go bad, i.e., in a recession.  I've only gotten into real trouble trying to help out people out, i.e., when the economy goes bad by trying to keep them employed.

I think the most telling is to watch someone's company email (while you are paying their salary) and to see the only activity on it the emailing to you, the boss, telling you how busy they are.

This brings me back to my friend.  He and I struck up a working relationship early on.  In the last five years there an never been any kind of issue - money or otherwise.  Now this guy is effectively the CEO of his own little operation and he's a damn good one.

His model is simple: agree on a price, do the work and get paid.  Nothing more and nothing less.  There is never an expectation of getting paid for not doing what is promised and what is promised is always what gets done.

In business I have always found this model to be best.

So what's the difference between the high end employee taking you for a ride and a guy like my friend?  The answer is one word - character.

My friend knows when he is not doing his job and, when he isn't, doesn't expect to get paid for it.  At the same time, based on his level of income, he is not "over committed" to a lifestyle that he cannot afford.

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