A lesson from the mechanic
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2018 - 12:00am

This is a story I stumbled upon many years ago, taken from the Reader’s Digest submitted by Donald Dunn, which left an impenetrable impression on me that lasts till today. This story and the principle derived from it guided me to do business with partners, clients, vendors and have reaped very positive and profitable results over the years.

It is the author’s story about his father and his diesel-repair shop. Here it is.

A man entered my father’s diesel-repair shop and said he was a driver from a trucking fleet. He suggested, “How about adding a few extra parts to the bill? We’ll let the company pay for it, and you and I can split the difference.”

Dad refused, but the customer was insistent. “I come through here a lot,” the man continued. “We could make quite a bit of money.” Dad said that wasn’t how he operated. “Everyone does it!” the man yelled. “Are you some kind of fool?”

Burning mad, Dad asked him to leave and take his business elsewhere.

Suddenly the man smiled and extended his hand for a handshake. “I own a trucking company,” he said. “I’ve been looking for a mechanic I can trust, and I’m not taking my business anywhere else!”

When I ask participants in my seminars to define integrity, a common response I would get would be: “Doing the right thing even when nobody’s watching,” and that is a good response. Albert Einstein said that C.S.Lewis says the same thing. But technically, when the word “integrity” is looked at in its literal sense, it refers to a mathematical term that connotes “wholeness.” It is also the same work where other words are derived at like: “integrated,” or “integer,” meaning “whole” number. And when you look at it from this vantage point of view, it could so mean that something is broken, torn apart, cracked when there is the absence of it. Thus, you get the word: “disintegrated.”

When you apply this thought in the context of human transactions, integrity, therefore refers to moral wholeness. This is a consistency between what a person believes in, says, and what he does. Three main components are listed here: belief system, profession and action. When all these are not consistent, then you can fairly claim that there is a lack of integrity in the person and it would not be a very unfair claim to it.

Michael Josephson says: “Sometimes a lack of integrity is hypocrisy – a demonstration of an insincere claim to virtue in belief or conduct. But sometimes a lack of integrity is the result on a sadly human weakness of moral will.” Maintaining integrity is not easy when you live in a world that is full of temptations and rationalization, especially when the temperature or the times is “relativism,” and moral virtues is regarded as a joke and a relic of the ancient past.

But what people who compromise in this area fail to understand is that integrity may be hard and costly to maintain today, but when trust and credibility are so important in personal as well as business relations, integrity is also a pragmatic asset that improves relationships and promotes success.

During the earlier years of my speaking and training career, I had a client (institution) wanting me to fill in their training needs and the contract price for the project was enormously high. I will have to travel all throughout the country and train all their regional agencies, and the offer was attractive. But here is the catch: the person requests that the contract price be inflated because according to her, she needs to “facilitate” things and make sure that the contract will be awarded through its “bidding” process.

My knee-jerk reaction was, “Oh it is an interesting offer, but our company wants all things are done properly and all details above board. On the practical side, I cannot give my best when I work under this arrangement. You see, training is a very personal thing and I would not be in my natural element every time I stand up in from of people and know that I am doing this not based on my own merit but because someone had to “facilitate’ so I can have your account.”

Needless to say, the contract was given to another supplier. And here is the punch line; they wanted me to conduct “Values Transformation Seminars” to my consternation to say the least.

It may be difficult to do the harder right today and refuse to participate in the easier wrong, but the long term results lead to the strengthening of the character, and would reap beneficial results.

I had a bank executive who told me something I would never forget. He said, “Francis I want you to do leadership training to our managers and focus on “Authenticity and Trust.” I accepted the offer, and here is the best thing of them all. He says, “We have had offers from 3 other suppliers and your program is the most costliest of them all. But, you see, it would be very difficult to have someone train our leaders on the topics of trust and authenticity unless the trainer himself has proven a track record of living what he preaches. We are a bank and we know how to conduct background and credit check and you turn out all right.”

Why do I feel that for all the years of doing the harder right, the yield is now coming in and I am reaping the results?

Now you know why the story of the mechanic resonates so much and I am so glad I stumbled upon the story.

(Experience two inspiring days with Francis Kong learning leadership and life skills in his widely acclaimed Level Up Leadership on June 5-6 at Makati Diamond Residences near Greenbelt 1. For further inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

DIESEL-REPAIR SHOP DONALD DUNN
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