The first event is the heartbreaking story of a mother from Durham, N.C., whose 17-year-old son died of an undetected heart disease. His death was tragic enough, but what happened next made her loss even harder.
His mother wanted to preserve all of the tributes made to her son at his eulogy service, so she hired a local videographer to tape the service. Even though she paid more than $1,000 for the video service, she was extremely disappointed when she got the DVD. Everything about the video was done poorly, including titles containing the wrong dates for her son’s birth and death. The tributes were either missing or incomplete (including hers), and the audio was garbled. The videographer did not return any of her phone calls.
Out of desperation, the mother turned to a professional troubleshooter. She said, "It’s not about the money at all. Money will not bring my child back. I would just love to have a nice DVD; that’s it. I was hurt because I was so looking forward to seeing it and my son was so honored because he was a good boy and I just wanted to look at it by myself and with friends."
When confronted by the troubleshooter, the videographer felt that he was the victim, saying he was "overworked and underpaid" and insisting that the mother got what she paid for. He couldn’t understand why she was so upset. I don’t know all of the facts of the story, but I do know from the article I read that the videographer in question missed a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing. Sometimes it is more important to do the right thing than to be right and, in the process, preserve something money can’t buy: our integrity.
The second event that caused me to think about integrity was a project that I had completed for the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Minnesota and North Dakota. The BBB asked me to do a brief video introduction on each of the eight finalists for its 2007 Integrity Award Ceremony. I spent 2 1/2 days traveling around Minnesota to meet the eight finalists, and it turned out to be a wonderful, illuminating experience.
I interviewed a variety of business owners, ranging from a man who rebuilt classic British cars to the owner of a pool and spa business. All of them were passionate about their work. One gentleman could talk for hours on why it was important to have a dry, livable, and safe basement. Another individual got great satisfaction not only from remodeling homes, but also from correcting mistakes that other contractors had made and making sure his clients received more than what they paid for. The people that spoke most highly about him were his fellow contractors!
It was a great experience to be introduced to such a variety of businesspeople. Without exception, it was obvious that each of them had one thing in common: They had built their businesses on a strong foundation of integrity. As Doug Huseby, founder and CEO of Becker Furniture World (the Category 3 award winner) put it, "If you take care of the customer, the business will take care of you." Whenever he had a situation with a customer that needed to be resolved, he said that he always tried to do more than the customer expected. Later on, after joining the BBB, he said that he committed himself to doing whatever it suggested in resolving a conflict. But invariably, it was less than what he offered to do!
Recently, I hired a videographer to tape a funeral service for me because I was going out of town. When I got back, I found out that he had experienced equipment failure. As a result, the audio was garbled. I paid an audio specialist to clean it up. He did, but the result was still far from perfect. Even though the DVD was beautifully edited and the audio was understandable, I insisted on giving a full refund to the family.
In the letter I wrote to them, I stated, in part, "Enclosed you will find the DVD of your Father’s service … As I mentioned on the phone, the gentleman who taped the service had a problem with our mike setup, and the audio was not recorded according to our standards. We sent the audio to a sound specialist who was able to clean it up to a certain level, but since it did not come up to our standards, we want to reimburse you for the total cost of taping the service. We apologize for any inconvenience we have caused, and want you to know how badly we feel that the audio did not turn out to our satisfaction. Thank you for your understanding."
Instead of making a profit on that job, we actually lost money. But we preserved something more important than making a profit: our integrity. There is an old proverb that says, "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth." What’s in your name?
Alan Naumann (alan at memoryvision.tv) recently published The Complete Course on Funeral Videography, an updated an expanded version of his popular Business Everlasting training DVD. A featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2004–7 and a 2006 EventDV 25 honoree, he is based in Minneapolis.