CHAPTER 8
Absolute Honesty Law 6:
Build a Platform of Integrity
‘‘ The time is always right to do what is right.’’
M
ARTIN
L
UTHER
K
ING
J
R
.
CHARLIE IS IN THE CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS. WHEN HE STARTED,
back in the seventies, he and his crew worked with various gen-
eral contractors, framing walls and roofs on tract housing. One
of these contractors had a reputation for shoddy work; intolera-
ble working conditions; and an ethic that said get every house
done in the least amount of time, at the lowest cost possible,
even if you have to cut corners to do it. When Charlie and his
crew had an opportunity to work for this guy, Charlie was hesi-
tant—but it was 1974, the year of the oil embargo. The economy
was in the pits, construction work was scarce, and Charlie was
hungry. So he took the job.
He soon noticed that the builder had earned his reputation.
The fellow constantly pushed his crews and subcontractors to
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204 THE SIX LAWS OF ABSOLUTE HONESTY
cut costs and reduce time spent on each house. He was fond of yell-
ing phrases like, ‘Why use two nails when one will do?’ and ‘‘Time
is money—you’re costing me a bundle, so get your butt in gear,’ and
other maxims too vulgar to mention. One day Charlie’s crew was
sheathing a roof with 4 x 8 foot plywood sheets, nailing across the
roof trusses, which were laid out every two feet. As they moved
across the roof, they came to a four-foot gap between trusses. Charlie
called the builder over and pointed out the gap. The builder replied,
‘Oh, yeah, they ran short on trusses yesterday. Just lay the plywood
across the four-foot span. No one’s going to notice.’
‘Probably not,’ Charlie pointed out, ‘but in six months, the roof
is going to sag there.’
‘Not our problem,’ was the reply.
‘What about the building inspector?’ Charlie asked.
‘Not your problem. We’ve got him covered.’
At that point, Charlie pulled his crew off the job and left.
We asked Charlie if he had done anything further to expose this
fraud—report it to the building department or tell the story to the
newspapers. He sheepishly said that he would now, but he didn’t at
the time because he was young, just starting out, and didn’t want to
make a fuss. He did note, however, that the builder went bankrupt
the following year because of huge losses resulting from ‘internal
shrinkage.’ That’s right: His own people were stealing materials from
him.
Thethieverysupportsthepointwemadeearlierinthisbook
about mutual reciprocity and, we think, a more accurate maxim:
What goes around, comes around. This builder certainly got what he
deserved. More than that, he illustrated a key principle of leadership:
Like it or not, leaders lead—even bad ones.
SteveRayner,theauthorofTeam Traps,
1
talks about watching
his twin sons play in their first Little League game. Every time one
of the kids from the opposing team would make a mistake, their
coach would yell from the sidelines, deriding the boys and even call-
ing them names like ‘dummy’ and ‘stupid.’ Pretty soon all the kids
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