Honesty is a Virtue
David Cross is the President and CEO of AAA Auger Plumbing, an all-purpose plumber with locations in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Irving, and San Antonio Texas.
David isn’t your average plumber; he began his career in the automotive industry. A family connection brought him to AAA Auger in 1999, and he’s been there ever since. After working his way through the business to the top, David has done everything in his power to innovate AAA Auger, implementing new marketing tactics, branding, culture, and locations. Despite the vast growth and changes that have AAA Auger has undergone, David maintains one virtue that so many industry giants seem to lose: his honesty.
In fact, David goes out of his way to ensure that AAA Auger is an honest business and transparent for its customers.
Brand Junkies hosts Dave Valentine and Kenn Scott sat down with David Cross to discuss how honesty has manifested itself in AAA Auger, and what effects that’s had on the company as a whole.
David Cross: “You have to prove to people that your word means something through accountability. If I said I was going to do something, I did it, period, even if I regretted the decision. That’s where credibility comes from. If your employees can't trust you, how can your customers trust you? It really starts with how you treat your employees. They see me make decisions not based on profit but based upon ethics and morality. We've never been a company who hides behind a warranty.”
Your company’s entire reputation begins with the way your management treats its employees. After all, when employees feel well-respected, they’re more likely to enjoy their job more and thus do a better job for customers. Maintaining accountability is an excellent way to show respect for employees; no one likes a person who doesn’t follow through on their word.
But David goes above and beyond simply maintaining his word…
David Cross: “I learned through some training that we had installed some really crappy material in a million dollar home. The stuff was prone to leaking and causing damage. Granted, it passed inspection. But I spoke with my field supervisor and said, ‘how can we sleep at night knowing that it's not a matter of if, but when?’ So we had a meeting with the homeowner and they didn't like it because we had done probably about $10,000 worth of work and they had already drywalled everything back in. When I told them, ‘Listen, I hate to tell you but I'm very, very concerned about the job that we did,’ they weren't very happy, but they respected the heck out of me. That set our precedent. It was one of those actions that set the culture and taught people who we are.”
It had to have taken guts to approach the homeowners of the job, but David did it anyway - even though the work was technically approved and the longterm consequences probably wouldn’t have affected him. He put his reputation on the line to admit AAA Auger’s mistake and came out better on the other side. This is the truest form of accountability: maintaining integrity at all costs.
Integrity is not limited to in-person experiences. As he explains,
David Cross: “I personally wrote responses to every single online review, positive or negative. I’ll check Facebook, Google, Yelp, Angie's List. At one point, a company approached me and said, ‘Hey, we're going to help you with your reviews. There are two services that we offer: one, we're going to go through our VPN and ping IP addresses all over your area and populate you with favorable reviews. That's going to boost your business. Yelp, Google, people won't be able to tell that they're illegitimate reviews. The second thing we’ll do, you’ll tell us who your competitors are and we're going to start giving them bad reviews.’ I told them, ‘You can kiss my ass.’ I don't begrudge anybody trying to find a way to make a living in this world, and you can bet I’ll write my own reviews.”
Though David’s job is not directly in Public Relations, he makes sure that he oversees that side of things when necessary. He realizes that as the CEO, nothing is directly outside of his list of job duties… but no matter what he does, he maintains the highest level of integrity and accountability. Word has spread; AAA Auger Plumbing is recognized across Texas as being an honest firm that will get the job done right. What more can a company want?
Honesty can be a difficult virtue to maintain. Sometimes it would be so much easier - and perhaps save time and costs - to do things the ‘wrong’ way.
However, integrity does not go unnoticed; a business does not have to tout its values because customers will recognize work ethic and word will naturally spread. After all, everyone wants to hire someone they can count on to get the job done right.
Think about this:
Has your business ever not owned up to its mistake? Would you go out of your way to be honest, even if the short-term consequence could be harmful?
Is David’s model of business practical? Would you be more likely to trust a business if you knew it valued truth? Do consumers value your business for that very reason?
How can you improve your reputation and trust-factor within your community?