4 years ago I finally had saved just enough money to purchase a used bike. Over the years my bike fund had been the victim of many a household emergency.

One year the car needed new tires. Another the wife needed glasses or she would not pass her drivers license eye test without them. We needed to go to Ontario…

Buying a Bike

All told it took me about 5 years to save $600 extra for a bike. I had made some decent sacrifices just to have that bit of cash. I know that decent bikes easily cost $5000 and $600 is nothing, but it was 100% of the extra cash I had.

With my $600 in hand, I watched Craigslist by the second to find the right bike at the right price. I used to be a bike mechanic so I have a decent idea of what things are worth. I wasn’t going to go in on a bike that was valued way over what it was worth, I was looking for a good deal.

After a week of watching I found it. $600 for a 2 year old bike that would have originally retailed for around $1300

The real kicker is that on my way the seller called me and informed me that he had others call and offer him more money, if I was willing to raise my offer…

Now that’s a hard question, see I’m in the car and I’m almost to the arranged meeting spot. I’m super excited to get a new bike finally. I could probably scrounge up a bit more and make an offer. I know the bike is a killer deal, really the guy could probably get $800 – 1000 for it since it’s not really used much.

I took a second to think and only had one question.

Me: “Are you a man of integrity?”
Him: “Huh?”
Me: “You agreed to $600, but I guess you need to make the best decision for you. Are you a man of integrity? Will you uphold an agreement we made?”
Him: “Mumble, mumble…see you in 10 minutes.”

Selling a Kayak

I’ve been in the same position as the seller. The same summer I purchased a bike, I sold a used kayak. One sunny Saturday I had 2 people interested in the boat. One was a local and one was driving in from Vancouver (that’s a few hours).

Turns out the local guy decided to purchase it after a short test paddle. We were both standing by the cars (him changing just out of ear shot) when the other interested party arrived. Now I’ve told this person from the beginning that there was someone else interested and if they agree to purchase it first…

While the local paddler is unable to hear us, the other guy comes up and I tell him that the boat is now spoken for. He’s not very happy, but he asks if I’ve been given the cash already which I haven’t. He then offers me $100 more than I had asked for if I’ll sell it to him. I have one reply.

Me: “I made a deal already, I’m a man of my word.”
Him: “But you don’t have the money yet, I’ll give you more.”
Me: “No thanks.”

I would not be telling the truth if I said that part of me wasn’t tempted to take a bit more money. I really didn’t know either of them, it wouldn’t make one iota of difference in my day to day life really. None of my friends would care, my wife wouldn’t know exactly how it went down so she wouldn’t care. I could get $100 more and just have $100.

Again, I had a second to think. It would make a difference. I wouldn’t be living my life with integrity. I’d look back at the situation and realize how I went back on my word. Above all else I want to be known as someone with integrity.

Integrity with Clients

It’s no secret I charge weekly for my services. When you pay me you get all my time for 1 week (outside of a bit of business admin time).

Just before Christmas I was caught up in the season and working on a client project. Late nights and wanting to be off for the season caught up with me one day and I really didn’t do much work.

I didn’t provide full value.

There is no way for the client to really know that I didn’t provide full value for a day. They aren’t watching me and they don’t understand Git. They just have to trust me.

When I realized that I really didn’t provide value for the client I emailed the client and let them know. I extended the week for a day in to the following week that was supposed to be my vacation.

I tried to act with integrity and put my client first.

My question to you is are you a person of integrity? Do you stand by your word? Do you make sure that clients get full value all the time or do you ‘get away’ with lackluster work if you can?

You’ll probably get away with poor integrity for a while. I’m sure that there are many people out there that make lots of money acting with no integrity.

Will you be really happy acting with integrity or without?

photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

4 responses to “Integrity”

  1. Dave Clements Avatar

    I definitely try to be proactive about being open and honest where my service level doesn’t meet my agreed level, or even my desired standard. There have been a few cases where I’ve gone ahead and refunded a full month of service just because I felt that my level of service wasn’t what the client paid for, and it was the right thing to do. The client may well have been none-the-wiser, but I believe in karma, and that level of integrity certainly pays off. The impression that my clients received when they didn’t know anything happened, and saw a credit on their credit card statement and an email from me explaining why puts a huge amount of their faith in me and the service I provide. Being good at what you do is only half the story when you’re a small business owner: being trustworthy is massive considering that your reputation (and thus, your success) rests on it.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Clients that get that level of honesty often become lifelong clients. The day of vacation I gave up is 1000% worth it in the long term health of my business.

  2. Ryan Duff Avatar

    Speaking from previous experience, this will come back to bite you in the ass in one form or another.

    Essentially, treat it like karma. Bad decisions beget bad karma points. It’s really as simple as that.

    To reiterate, don’t cut corners or cheat on things and be honest about what you do.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Yeah acting poorly to clients will ruin your business long term.