“I would rather you didn’t do that. It kind of takes something away from it for me to get all that praise, like I’m some kind of hero, or something. I’m just trying to do the right thing.”
I honored his wish to remain anonymous. I don’t understand it, as I am a serious limelight junkie. I tend to blow my own horn — frequently. Just ask me and I’ll tell you how wonderful I am! But I’ve noticed that the best folks, the ones that would give you the shirt off their backs, or move to the front lines when the enemy attacks, are not interested in hero status.
Well, too bad. I love to spread good news. There’s too much of the nasty stuff going around. You wake up, turn on the CNN news and find blood, gore and madness. Right before bedtime, you listen to more horror stories on the late night news. Enough!
Today, I will acknowledge my humble friends. I am going to sing the praises of those who do the right thing, who walk the talk. Whether you like it or not. (I won’t mention you by name, so you don’t have to get your panties in a knot. But you’ll know who you are in the following tales!)
Dear reader, let me introduce you to some everyday heroes:
The Rescuers: I met Bob and Sue (names changed for the sake of privacy and dramatic effect) three years ago. Quiet couple, low profilers. They were thinking about joining Contractors 2000 and I had them cornered at a membership drive function. In spite of all my arm twisting, they didn’t join. About a week later, I called Sue and smoked out the objection.
“We are a small shop,” she said. “No way we can match up with the sophisticated contractors we met at the membership meeting.”
“Well, some are sophisticated, some are pretending and most are trying their best to improve themselves and their businesses,” I replied. “Give it a go!”
Sue and Bob joined. Two years later their two-truck company was honored by the group for their solid financial performance. They shamed some of the larger shops with their real salaries and double-digit net profits. They raised the bar for small shops everywhere with their commitment to professionalism and the betterment of the trade. That alone makes them heroes in my eyes.
But there is an even better story. Another local contractor (their competitor, technically) fell into some tough circumstances last spring. Due to this, that and the other thing, this fellow dropped from five service techs to none! And he had lost his office help as well. (You think you have it tough?) Bob and Sue heard about the hard times and offered to help. Get this: They went over and manned the office for him until he got a few folks hired. They answered the phone, booked service calls, processed the invoices at his shop. They “loaned” their customer service rep until he got over the hump. They virtually saved this fellow from closing his doors.
That’s what heroes do.
Standing Tall: I have a lot of conversations with contractors. Most include this line: “You can’t charge that much money here. Not in my town!”
Well, if my friend Billy can do it, you can too. Billy lives in a town on the Mexican border. In this town there are a lot of folks who think $5 U.S. per hour is a fortune! He even has some competitors who will work for food. Billy isn’t old, but he is in the afternoon of his lifetime. He had a now-or-never moment a few years ago, and realized that he wasn’t going to retire on the prices he was charging. He dug in his heels, crunched the numbers and moved his selling price to $175 for an hour of labor.
He runs a small shop. It’s just him and another fellow whom he refers to, very respectfully, as his associate. He sent me a photo of the two of them, standing proudly beside their gleaming trucks. Billy and his associate find the few folks in his small town who appreciate the top-notch service and workmanship they deliver.
If he can do it, you can do it. And Billy is a hero to me for proving it.
The Luckiest Guy In The World: One of my best friends is the luckiest guy in the world. That’s his take on things. He loves his wife, has a terrific business and is blessed with lots of beautiful daughters. And he has lots of responsibilities — a disabled sister-in-law, and mothers on both sides of the family that he huddles close to his campfire. His kids were born within 15 minutes of each other so his education bills are more than the GNP of most European countries. Does he whine about the financial burden and the lack of privacy? Nope. He takes everyone on family vacations that require three cars.
Recently, one of his daughters was in a serious accident.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. It could have been so much worse! She is alive and healing and I couldn’t be happier.”
He is the top in his field of expertise and his selling prices reflect his solid self-esteem. Yet when it comes to his friends he forgets to send the invoice.
“How could I charge you for that? I had too much fun working on it!”
He thanks you for letting him help you!
His life has been lined with hardships. Under conditions that send the toughest players running for the showers, he notices something on the fringes, some detail that makes the whole disastrous moment simply perfect.
“Man, I am the luckiest guy in the world.”
The rainbow touches down on him. He’s the best kind of hero.
More Good News:
- Plumbers and others on the Internet-linked Plumbers Discussion List recently pooled dollars to provide a disabled woman with a customized toilet. A nice one, top of the line. One of the members requested information about the toilet, explaining the woman’s situation as background and unsolicited dollars came poring forth.
- Her husband died in a tragic accident, and Sally wasn’t up to running the business without him. But a few contractors in the Midwest rallied ‘round. They gathered to discuss her business, giving her hope and business consulting — and the confidence to operate the business on her own.
- A friend in New Jersey is blatantly harassed by his competitors and the local sour-grapes inspectors and bureaucrats. He’s accused of charging too much. His customers don’t think he charges too much. They love him. His employees would take a bullet for him. But he is a pariah in the local plumbing community. He is my hero because, in spite of all this, he is kind, generous and unwavering in his commitment to his family, his employees and his customers.
- And every day millions of plumbing and heating heroes hold disease at bay, keep babies warm, food fresh and deliver pure water and air to the people of the world.
Imagine if every industry was as successful at solving problems as ours is. This industry is full of heroes. And it is right to acknowledge them once in a while.