I received a call that there had been a water leak causing extensive damage to the interior of a building on which we had installed the roofing and sheet metal. When I met with the project architect, contractor and the job superintendent, I pointed out that all three stories of the building had suffered damage to the walls, floors and equipment but the top floor had no ceiling damage. This was odd because if the roof had leaked, the third floor ceiling would have been damaged. At this point, I noticed the job superintendent’s face had lost its color.
He confessed that the painting contractor had told him that the coating specified to waterproof the walls was not necessary; so, without checking further, he had agreed to a credit on the job. His decision to save a few thousand dollars cost his company tens of thousands of dollars.
Years later, I served on the board of directors of a magazine publishing company managed by a not-for-profit association. In that we printed and distributed a profitable publication, the board meetings were fast, non-confrontational and followed by cocktails and dinner. Things were easy until we found out we were being sued.
The publisher’s rep firm that handled our advertising sales was performing well; in fact, they were doing such a great job that the association president decided to make a tidy profit by firing the firm and hiring its sales person. Upset by our canceling the contract and stealing their employee, the firm obtained a judgment that included the publishing company and the association.
The magazine could not pay the judgment so the magazine’s board decided to liquidate the publishing company through bankruptcy. That placed the association in the position of having to pay the entire judgment and cost the association president his job.
I was driving my father to an appointment when on the shoulder of the road we saw a man placing discarded aluminum cans in a large trash bag. As we passed him, my father turned to me and said, “He used to be one of our best customers until he got a little greedy and lost everything.”
Getting a “little greedy” leads to errors in judgment: such as leaving the waterproofing off of a building or hiring an employee away from a vendor. By cutting corners and trying to squeeze the last dollar out of suppliers and customers, a successful contractor ended up scavenging aluminum cans for a living. Greed damages relationships, leads to disputes and ultimately results in personal or business failure.
Success is assured by choosing to be generous and selfless when dealing with others. Ignoring immediate gain in favor of long-term mutual benefit satisfies the quest for meaningful and profitable relationships.
The eternal question is: “When is it you have enough?” The answer is subjective to each person; to some a one-bedroom home on a quarter acre lot is enough; to others, six-bedrooms and ten acres is enough. However, when you barter your morals, your health, your friends or family for more of anything, you move beyond the fantasy of need to the actuality of greed.
“From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned.” – Emile Durkheim