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Posts Tagged ‘How we got started’

sullyCapt. C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot whose quick thinking helped safely land 150 or so passengers in the Hudson River earlier this year, was recently asked by a young girl (according to an article in this week’s Parade Magazine) what the word “integrity” meant.  Sully replied something to the effect that it was what you do and how you act when no one else is looking. 

Thinking back on events in my past, and people I’ve known, that’s a pretty fine definition, don’t you think?

Got me to thinking.  A lot.

Awhile back I made a tragic career mistake.  I attempted to sell my business to a group of employees who, in short order, defaulted on their payments, stole about 8 employees and set up shop one day later in the offices of a former client who probably saw great opportunity in the software business.  Along the way, they took employees, a few clients, a lot of inside knowledge, and a couple hundred thousand in deposits from clients for work they apparently had no intention of performing.  It took a lawsuit to shut them down, but not before they had set up a website with our clients listed on their site… billed our customers on their letterhead… and after defaulting, were even witnessed removing mail out of our mailbox that later turned up as very sizable deposits in their bank account.  That’s the short version of a very big mess.

These were people who had worked here for a long time.  Well cared for.  Always got a paycheck, and usually a pretty healthy one, in good times and bad.  Learned the business working here.  Had their mistakes covered and always got a second (or third, or fourth) chance.  And yet a few, through deceit and duplicity, nearly ruined a very good company, wreaked financial havoc on the guy who gave them their start (and paid them well), and sullied their reputations permanently among the wide swath of people that know the whole story.

For what?

Money, sure.  A shot at taking something that wasn’t really theirs to burnish their own fortunes perhaps.  But in the end, at what price?  You can spin a yarn, but you can’t spin the truth.  You can thrust and parry and avoid the hard issues — like that integrity thing — and maybe you even convince yourself that it’s all someone else’s fault. 

But you can’t run away from Capt. Sully’s simple observation: that it’s all about how you act when no one’s looking.  And when you reveal that hole in your integrity when everyone is looking, that’s a pretty big hole to dig yourself out of.

Our new firm — including several former senior staff members not part of the conspiracy —  is the recovery from my gigantic mistake.  We all took a very hard hit.  I owe the gang who stayed a lot.  But the new firm is turning out some great work, and fortunes are slowly improving.  We’ve added staff — really good staff.  Customers are happy.  Projects are coming in successfully, on time and on budget.  The way they’re supposed to in an otherwise very tough business.

But it turns out that trusting the wrong people, in the end, gives you no one to blame but yourself.  Lesson learned.   Hopefully, at least you retain your integrity, if not your financial security.  And besides, what don’t kill ya’ makes you stronger, right?  Always look at the bright side.

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