Honesty is always the best policy

imgresYears ago I remember a family down the street from us decided to let their babysitter/nanny/housekeeper go.  I don’t remember the reason but what I do remember is that they told the kids that the woman was going to move back to her country so she was going to be leaving them.  A few months later this woman shows up working for another family and the kids didn’t get it.

My kids came home and asked me about it and who knows what the kids of the family thought.  I remember telling my kids the truth, they fired her.  I don’t know why but they did.  Years later we hired a woman who I had to fire.  Our kids were 9, 7 and 4.  She was with us a year and I let her stay longer than I should have.  I fired her on a Friday afternoon, told her to pack up and leave and gave her a hefty severance so she had enough time to find something else.  I told her exactly why she was being fired, I didn’t make up excuses.  It was not pleasant.

That afternoon I picked up the kids at school.  We all went out to a pastry shop for an afternoon treat.  I told the kids I fired the woman who was working for us and told them exactly why I fired her.  At first they were taken back but over the course of our afternoon treat I found out that they weren’t so happy with her either and not surprising I found out a few more things.

I know that was a learning moment about honesty.  It was also a learning moment about having to do something that isn’t pleasant.  I get emails all the time where I say no this business isn’t for me and sometimes people come back and ask why so they can understand where I am coming from.  I am pretty honest and I know it has been helpful because many of those founders have returned to my box over the years saying that I was the only person who was completely honest and now it makes sense.  Obviously sometimes I should not have said no but that is part of being an investor.

When I was a kid my Mom owned a plant store in Georgetown called the Green Scene. It was the mid-70s and that plant store was very cutting edge.  There were two people who worked for my Mom and her partner, Sharon and Richard.  They were probably in their late 20’s but I thought they were much older.  At one point Sharon stopped wearing deodorant and it was unbearable to be in the same room with her.  I had injured myself at camp that summer and worked in the store every day because there was nobody at home to watch me so I knew all the ins and outs of what was happening in the store.  My Mom told me she was going to talk to her about it.  She obviously did because the body odor was no longer reeking throughout the store.  She also told me that she talked to her.  I remember thinking that must have been a tough conversation to have but she owned the business so she had to do it.

Not sure what sparked that memory in my head this week but you learn from somewhere.  Being honest with your kids, your friends, your business partners, the people who work for you, your partner/spouse is so important.  They are learning moments for everyone.  When you bury something under the rug it always ends up creeping out from under.