There is an interesting word that I hear more often when traveling outside the U.S. than I do at home. But I have a feeling it was once an important part of our vocabulary as well. The word is honor. There is no doubt that honor is a personal thing that has many meanings. Honor is being true to your beliefs or as they would say in Total Quality Management Speak, “Walking the Talk.” To walk the talk, your actions and your beliefs must be consistent. You must do the right thing even when it might not be the best thing for your personal benefit. When we are honest, have integrity, do the right thing, and think of others first, we can be called honorable.
When I think of the great small businesses I have been fortunate to work with, the word honor seems to fit. Small businesses often put honor over profit and put doing the right thing over financial gain. This is a rare quality in our pay for play society.
It was a beautiful Friday in a hot Texas summer and I promised the family a lake vacation. We had been looking forward to this for months and had rented a small house at a lake 4 hours from Dallas. I had an old boat but it had served us well in the past, yet I thought I should take it to a local lake to start the engine and make sure the boat would still float. All went well, so I loaded it on the trailer and headed home.
As I drove down my street I could see smoke from the back wheel on the right side of the boat trailer. I pulled in the drive way and got out to look at the wheel. It was too hot to touch. Now what? It was about 4:00 p.m. and the vacation wasn’t looking too good. The kids would be so disappointed.
Since I had no idea who fixed boat trailers in our area, I asked my wife to do a Google search. She found The Trailer Man. Sounded like a good place to start, but being late on a Friday made my chances bleak. I called him and assumed he would say, “Bring it by Monday. “
First, I would need to cancel the vacation. Second, with a smoking wheel, how was I to get it to his shop anyway? But he didn’t say bring it in Monday. He said, “I’ll tell you what, I don’t live too far from you. I’ll come by your house in about an hour and take a look.”
There he was, a stranger, lying on his side in my driveway looking at my old boat trailer. He looked at the wheel and told me the bearings were shot. They’d actually gotten so hot they’d fused the wheel so it didn’t turn at all. It was a trailer with 2 axles and 4 wheels, so he showed me how to block up one wheel to keep it from touching the ground. That meant the boat was only riding on 3 wheels. Before he left, he told me to bring the trailer in Saturday morning and reminded me to drive real slow.
Saturday morning started off okay, two wheels on the ground on one side and just one on the other. It looked funny but it worked just fine. I backed into his shop and he began working on the wheel. Soon he said, “We need to heat up the wheel with a torch and break it loose, but Steve, we close at noon today.”
I told him I understood. His team was still working hard on the stubborn wheel as the clock struck 12.
I asked him about the rest of his day. To my surprise he said he was running one of his cars in a drag race that evening.
About 3:00 p.m. he asked one of his crew to call the race track and tell them he wouldn’t make the race that day, but that he looked forward to racing the next weekend.
By 5:00 p.m. the wheel was fixed and the trailer was ready to roll. We left for the lake the next morning and the vacation was saved. The family was happy!
The Trailer Man sacrificed his personal time to save my family’s vacation. I’d have been happy paying almost any price for the work, but it was more than reasonable. In fact, it was a bargain.
So let’s add up the score for The Trailer Man:
He came to my house to help get the job started. (I thought house calls were a thing of the past)
Fair Pricing A+
He gave me his personal cell number in case I had any issues. Wow! Have I been back to The Trailer Man in Richland Hills, Texas? Yes, two more times over the years. And yes, the price, the quality, and the attitude were still the same. I have recommended him to many others and will continue to do so. He is an example of how business should be done and why we must protect small business in America. Small businesses are the Canary in the Coal Mine.
My next blog will continue to tell real stories to show you that honesty and integrity aren’t dead. In fact, they are very much alive, in small businesses, in this great country.