I recently had an experience that brought me great joy – and a reminder about character and making the right choices. The story begins with my vacation travels that included a trip to Seattle and a visit to Pikes Place Market.
We had an interruption this year on our normal vacation to Northern Michigan (BTW – if you haven’t been there, it is a great place – low temperatures, low humidity and plenty of sun). We left in the middle of our visit for a wedding in Eastern British Columbia. Our travels there and back gave me the opportunity to introduce my daughter to Seattle. Prior to our flight back to Michigan, we decided to visit Pikes Place Market.
I generally know better than to take my girls to a place where there are vendors marketing goods (if shopping was a sport, these two could have turned pro). But we were on vacation, so why not?
Nearing the end of our visit to the Market, they decided we needed to buy some pasta (????) for a special meal in Michigan later in the week. When I reached into my pocket for cash, I discovered that somewhere at an earlier purchase, I must have dropped two $100 bills that I keep folded together.
In a mental frenzy and fast walk, I retraced my steps to each of the previous vendors in desperation that one of them had actually found the money. What can I say, I am an optimist.
Upon getting to the dried fruit stand (I told you they can’t be trusted with merchants), I was happy to learn that that a visitor passing by their booth had seen the $100 bills and had given them to the vendor in case someone discovered the loss and returned to the booth. The vendor had put the money in an envelope and had written the Good Samaritan’s name and mobile number on the outside.
I was so surprised that someone had found the money and tried to return it. Despite my optimistic hope, I knew full well that it would be very easy for someone to pocket the lost bills. Finders Keepers Losers Weepers is a common phrase for a reason.
The vendor did remember my family (my girls create that type of impression) and after I described my loss, he returned the two $100 bills to me.
When I called to thank the person named on the envelope, Josiah, I was surprised and pleased to learn that the actual Good Samaritan was his 11 year old son, Eden. I was able to talk with Eden and express my joy of getting the money back – and my appreciation of his doing the right thing! I also shared with his dad what a great role model and parent he was for raising a son of such high character.
Deciding to do the right thing can sometimes be difficult given all of the challenges in our personal and professional lives today. It would have been very easy for Eden to pocket the money, with no one the wiser, and have a windfall of wealth for an 11 year old.
In our professional lives, we have similar opportunities for making the right decisions everyday also.
Across my career, and especially now as an owner of a small software business, there have been ample opportunities to cut corners and do things that may bring short-term benefits. Unfortunately, these would be at the expense of customers, partners, employees, etc.
But the fact of the matter is that we’ve been in business 20 years. The foundation of our long term success is the quality of our work and the strength of the relationships we have with our customers, partners, and employees. We wouldn’t be here without those two things. Having trust is the key to achieving this solid foundation!
I sent something nice to Eden along with a note of appreciation of his character. This gesture wasn’t so much about rewarding him, but rather recognizing the quality of the person that he is.
My company relationships do that for me every day. For us, this comes not only in revenues, but also in the form of references, and introductions to others that share common goals. Doing the right thing has greater lasting dividends then picking up some quick, easy cash.
Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.