When I was a kid, my brother and I would earn money by mowing lawns in our neighborhood. For $5-$20 per lawn, he and I would go to a neighborhood home and take turns mowing the grass until we’d finished. Once the job was completed, one of use would tie the lawnmower to the back of his bike while the other carried the gas to our next customer’s home or back to our home on Summitt Avenue. The work was hot and unforgiving, but we were young and had no problem mowing 10-15 lawns per weekend; needless to say, we were quite happy with our first small business.
One Saturday evening, we were sitting at the kitchen table counting up the day’s take when my mom walked into the room and told us both to get up and come with her. In her famous mom voice, she told us to get the lawnmower and the gas and load both into the trunk of the car. Without a question or hesitation, we gathered our things and loaded the car as directed. As we got underway she told us that one of our customers had called and was very unhappy with the work we’d done earlier in the day. She said nothing more to either of us until we were in front of our customer’s home. Once there, she gave one instruction; “get out of this car and finish that man’s yard!”.
The customer, one of our regulars, directed us to a small patch grass in his backyard that we failed to address during our earlier visit. Angry that we had to come out again, but afraid of mom, Chris and I mowed over the neglected patch of yard and made sure to thank the customer once again for letting us mow his grass. My mom then walked over to the customer, a long-time acquaintance, and told him that we would be happy to mow his grass for free the next time he wanted us to come out. Once we were back in the car, mom told us that we owed her $10(the fee we made from mowing the lawn) for the transportation and her time. She then gave both of us the first and most important lesson we would ever learn about providing service to others:
“Nobody around here has money to throw away, so if someone asks you to do something for them, you don’t take their money and half-do the job. If you do that, people won’t want you to do anything for them and you’ll be out of business with nothing to show but an old lawnmower and a milk jug full of gas. If you don’t want to do right by people, you won’t cut another blade of grass and I mean that!”.