Honesty — being forthright is good for business

I used to clean houses when I was in high school.

In high school, I ran a little company called H+M Services that did household chores. I’d employ my high school friends for many of the jobs (I took a 10% fee of what they made) and I took the really high paying jobs for myself. Those were often the housecleaning and lawn-mowing jobs (they pay really well).

When is was 16, I cleaned one guy’s house in Harrison NY. He had a condo and he was a really nice guy. He bought and sold Hollywood scripts and gave me a lot of business advice. He trusted me … gave me the keys to his home, and would usually leave a $20 tip — big money for a high school student.

One day I was his condo cleaning while I was tossing one of his paperweights in the air and catching it. Then … all of a sudden … I missed the paperweight and it went crashing through the dry-wall. I was shocked. There was a big hole in the wall.

Rather than leaving a note for the owner telling him what I had done (this was before the ubiquity of cell phones and email), I rearranged his furniture to cover up the hole thinking he might not notice. When he called me later that night asking for an explanation, I pretended that I did not see the hole and that it must have already been there. It was a horribly lame lie.

While I did not lose the customer, he never trusted me anymore. And I never got the tip anymore. And I never got the business advice or career help. I devolved to hired help … that was all.

This is one of the many incidents that I regret. If I had to do it all over again, I wish I had left a note, left the money from that job, and proactively calling the homeowner to see if I can help more.

1 thought on “Honesty — being forthright is good for business

  1. just a reader

    You’re so right. That’s a lesson I had to learn in my young age, too. But I’m glad that I’ve already learned it!
    Many people in business have lost their view of reality in this point.
    Thanks a lot for your blog!


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