Throughout your career, you will have to make choices to get where you are going. Although risks are inherent in business, taking unnecessary risks regularly can take you down the road to disaster.
I live just outside the small town of Waterford, Ohio, population 800. The last road out of town is a bridge that crosses the river. There is a city block with two routes to get around and on to the bridge leaving town. One route is a little quicker, and has a railroad overpass with an 11-foot clearance. The other route takes a few seconds longer, but has no overpass.
One day, while eating lunch at the restaurant close to the railroad overpass, I heard a terrible crashing sound. Of course, we all went outside to see what happened. A ready mix concrete truck driver had forgotten about the overpass and was stuck underneath, with the top of his truck crushed in.
I knew the driver and really felt sorry for him. I thought to myself, “I always go that way, so that could have been me.” Of course, 99 out of 100 times, I am driving my SUV, car or truck through town, so going under the overpass is no issue at all. But, the few times a year I am driving through town in my motorhome with AC units on top (it stands 12 feet, three inches high), it would be a big issue. Since I always take that route through town, it is quite the routine. Sooner or later, I may forget the overpass, take the routine route in my motorhome, and “crash!” I’d be the one everyone would come out to gawk at.
Shearing the AC units off the top of my beautiful motorhome would leave major holes in the roof. What a vacation buster. I can’t let that happen, so I have made the commitment that I “don’t go that way” ever, regardless of whether I am in a regular vehicle or my motorhome.
In business, quicker routes are ever present – all dangling carrots, promising easy ways to get where you are going. I have been solicited to take short cuts by other business owners (friends). And, other contractors who have been faced with similar situations often ask my advice on what to do, and how to handle the situation when they are asked by others to take shortcuts.
Here’s a classic route you will most likely be asked to take at some time in your career: A competitor (friend) says he has a customer who needs three bids to award a contract. All he is asking you to do is submit a “suggested” price as a bid to his customer. Or, he may even make you a better offer. He says if you will give him your number, he will post a higher bid so you can have the job. Of course, his offer isn’t as free as it appears to be. If you jump in bed with him, he will expect you to return the favor to him in the future. Either way, this is usually the first route down the road to disaster. “Don’t go that way.”
What most people miss is that “just this one time” can start you down a slippery slope. At first, you may not even fully be conscious of the intent. It may be relayed as a friend helping a friend. However, soon one becomes two, two becomes three, and the choices you make become routine.
A short cut in my motorhome could leave some big holes in the roof. A short cut in business could damage your reputation and may destroy your business. It’s not worth it. There will be plenty of temptations along your journey. Make those choices based on good intentions. This way, you should travel down the clear road to success.