June 6, 2013
Most high school students start their working life with a fast food job or stacking boxes at a grocery store. My first employment was as a software developer. I thought I was pretty cool for a high school sophomore. Then I showed up for my first day of work. I cleaned the bathroom and mowed the lawn. I was pretty ticked. I thought I was coming in to sit in an air conditioned room and write code all afternoon and I wind up cleaning a toilet and mowing a lawn in dress clothes in the mid-summer heat. But I learned something once my pride cooled down a bit. Every business has jobs that have to be done if it is to run successfully. Bathrooms need to be cleaned; trash needs to go out; the lawn must be mowed. As a company grows, those jobs are quickly handed off to service providers who are all too happy to make money doing what others are too busy or good to do themselves. That experience taught me, though, that I’m never too good to do what needs to be done. If there’s paper towel on the bathroom floor, it’s worth the time to pick it up. If the trash can is overflowing, I can bag it up and take it to the dumpster. The little things say something about an organization. A clean, orderly bathroom leaves employees and customers feeling like they’ll be taken care of. Overflowing trash says no one cared enough to remove the eye sore. Maybe it is someone else’s job. But never become so important or wealthy that you can’t step in and help where help is needed. An employee watching a CEO take a bag of trash to the dumpster feels a bit better about helping the company day in and day out. A customer notices trash along your walkway that no one has removed. Manage the big things. Make tough decisions. But never pass by a chance to take care of the little things. They matter, too.