Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 38 seconds
During my youth and evolution from lemonade stand to real business, there has always been an undercurrent of doing things right. Integrity was instilled in me early as was my work ethic by my parents and boy scouts. It was later clarified with the help of my best friend and business partner Howard Olivier when we simplified it into this condensed statement that is explainable and became a useful tool to guide everyone at Flying Pie Pizza. “Once you know what the right thing to do is … that is what you always do.” I recall telling the delivery drivers that we made a written deal with the Boise Police… We don’t break any laws…And they don’t write us any tickets. As it turns out that mantra has guided me successfully through many years and countless interactions. The law in my mind is an attempt to legislate that basic tenant evenly over the entire civil society. There are those who believe that nothing is illegal until you are caught, I on the other hand have friends that say jokingly ” WWJD, what would Joe do?”
In construction of any kind, including remodeling, there are as many laws as there are things to do. There are new ones that have huge fines or as we say ( big teeth). I have found that there are times that just doing the right thing and following those laws isn’t enough to avoid running into conflicts with others. That is when the court system and judges get into the mix and become the arbiter and dealer of justice. Let’s face it resolving conflicts is an art form that deserves a tremendous amount of respect. Court has been good to me, I have kept my winning streak alive in part by living by my mantra. That being said, it needs to be tempered with the fact that just because I “win” in court doesn’t mean that by winning you actually get something other than a warm feeling, sort of like peeing in a wet suit. here are some examples. With the help of neighbors, I caught a theft who stole a thousand dollars of materials from a job site. Once sentenced, he had to do community service and repay the court, I never saw a cent.
I have done work for several people over the years and fixed their homes in good faith only to be stiffed. Sure I “won” in court but in one case the guy can’t be found and in the other, the lawyers fees have essentially eaten up the money I was owed. Principles are a double edge sword. In writing this piece I am reminded that I always try to be and play fair. Fair…Oh, that’s the thing with fun rides that happens annually in late summer.
Here is another example. I was accused of not paying a bill, never mind that the company didn’t actually do the work. Then the the owner refused to talk with me about it and sent my claim to a collection agency. Naturally I lost in small claims court and appealed. Arriving in big boy court the company chose not to represent themselves and I “won.” Now the collection company can’t be reached to clear my credit, is that fair?
The take home for me is that not going to court is the only way to really win. I have included in my agreements a clause that encourages face to face conflict resolution and if that doesn’t work to go to mediation done by a local mediation group. I only suggest court as a resolution of last resort.
I will continue to live by my mantra and no doubt extend my winning streak. In the meantime I will engineer some more protections in place to reduce the odds of being dragged into court or having to drag others into court.
1) I will not do work without a bid.
2) I will not do work over $2,000 without a contract that includes a description of work.
3) I will not do work for people I don’t trust.
The bottom line is that if I decide to work for free, I will choose the charity of my choice, not the charity that chooses me.