As I go about being self-employed / a business owner, I've had my eyes and ears open as to how the rest of the world goes about doing the same.
And some of it is far from pretty....
There are a whole lot of "skelms" out there, simply out to crook the general public and take as much money off them as they can before they're caught and taken down. In the wireless internet industry these are pretty thick on the ground. And they're not hard to find at the srapyard, the auto-electrician, the spares dealer (of whatever variety spares you speak), the corner shop etc. If they can find a gap, fleece an unsuspecting human and get them to hand over cash in return for basically nothing, they will.
Take one local company whose customers we've been signing up with regularity (and no, no names mentioned - the company's since been sold on). Although they charge a certain amount of money for an installation, the equipment that ends up on a pole varies widely - apparently according to whatever was in the bargain bin of the supplier at the time. We've come across some both interesting and horrifying stuff. And poor Joe Soap, who doesn't know UTP from Telkom cable, happily forks over his hard-earned dosh on what he trusts will be what was promised. Only to be dismally disappointed shortly thereafter, bound into a 2-year contract he can't exit.
Ah well. These things happen, you say.
Well - no. They shouldn't. Times are far too tough to take what meager cash comes our way and throw it at nothing.
And here's where the first part of the Honesty Policy comes in. From day 1 it's been a Cape Connect rule not to lie to the customer.
If you can't offer a service, say so up front - if necessary, direct them to a decent competitor who can help. If you don't know what's gone wrong with a signal or piece of eqiupment, say so - and then do your damndest to solve the problem. No sneakyness, no kak - just be honest and up front about who you are, what you do, and where your limitations are.
And then there's part 2 of this policy.
Virgin Earth. I'm not the biggest e-waste processor. I'm not the most kitted out. I'm simply a chick in a largely-male industry doing something that helps a lot of people.
And when it comes to Q&A time, I don't make up fairy-stories. How did Virgin Earth start? By accident - and word of mouth. Heavy equipment to process stuff in an industrial environment? Nope, but we either do the job by hand or pass on the heavier stuff to those who have the right equipment. Yes, I do the work myself and have the cuts to prove it. Yes, I do lift heavy equipment and have bruises all over. Yes, we often only just cover expenses trying to keep the service free - but no, we're not going to be charging for it anytime soon. And yes, you will get ME if you email, phone or meet up with Virgin Earth in person. That's who Virgin Earth is and it's how I operate.
And you know what? It makes a difference. I'm not trying to be something I'm not - I'm simply being honest. It's a case of take it or leave it, and some do choose to leave it to take their business elsewhere.
The thing is this. The Honesty Policy weaves a story of your business - of who you are, how you work and why. It's a basis from which everything functions, the smallest action to the biggest decision. It determines who you hire - or don't. Who you work with - or not. Who you buy from, who you sell to, how far you go in any direction.
There really is no other way to work.