When I was in High School, I was a forestry major at Norfolk Agricultural school. I used to spend my summers doing tree work. Some of the money that I made I would put aside for college and the rest would go to do the things high school kids did in the summer.
My neighbor hired me to take down some monster trees in his yard. One of which was hanging over the lake that we grew up on. We agreed on a price and I got ready to call my friend who usually worked with me. He was my ground man and I did the climbing. The afternoon that I was going to call my friend, my mother came up to me and gave me a lecture on family loyalty and that I had two big strong brothers that could use some work. Blah, Blah, Blah. My mother never got into my business before and so I relented and hired my brothers.
The following Monday with the heat in the high 80’s, we set to work. Now you would think that with two brothers bigger and stronger than me, the job would go easy and fast. Well, no sooner did I get up my first tree and was getting ready to make the first cut when their first argument started. I don’t remember what it was, but it was the beginning of a long 4 days of work.
The job took much longer than it was supposed to. Both brothers quit after two days because they were to hot and constantly disagreeing. So, the last two days, I took down the last big tree and did all the grunt work myself. The bottom line was that I underbid the job by quite a bit.
When my neighbor got home that evening, I met him in his back yard. He told me that he was happy with my work and thanked me for finishing the job in the time frame that he promised. He then gave me an envelope and told me not to open it until I got home. He then offered me two pieces of advice that I still go by today. 1) Take pride in what you do and always keep your promises even if you come out on the short end in business. If you do that, your reputation will grow, and the money will take care of itself. 2) Never ever hire family especially brothers.
When I got home and opened the envelope, I discovered that my neighbor gave me a check for double of what I quoted. He knew that I underbid the job and figured that I would learn from the experience. Of course, he was right.
Now if I told you this guys name, most of you would know him. I will tell you that he changed my attitude about working and about him, as I thought that he was just one of those rich snobs that didn’t care about anything but themselves. After that week and years later when I saw him around, I would always make a point of saying hi. Sometimes he would joke about my two brothers, but mostly he would want to hear about what I had been up to. That one week taught me a lot about myself, but also about someone whom I’ll remember the rest of my life.