Integrity, Patience and Profits!

Have you ever made a difficult decision, to maintain your integrity, that cost you money in the short-run?

I’ve done this enough to qualify myself as “the victim” more than once. Despite the friendships or great paying jobs I took “the High road”.
I’ve had multiple experiences, where declining opportunity (for ethics) delivered PRICELESS gains, including an amazing wife (Imported from New Zealand)

In a nutshell, here is my favorite evidence.

I opened my studio in 1996 without a single client. I created two-sided business cards that served as appointment/referral cards on the flip-side, handing them out like Halloween candy. “Here, take a few more…”

I said yes to every job that came my way, under-promised and over-delivered regardless of price. It served me well while mowing lawns as a young teen, as a retail manager in my 30’s, and now I don’t know how not to do it!

In 1997 I was sub-contracted by an older, well-established photographer. He flew me to Reno Nevada to shoot a convention with him. He had been established with them for many years, hugging nearly every one of the mostly-women clients like it was their duty to do so. He trusted me without a “non-compete” contract, and I agreed it was not necessary. I trusted me even more than he… (bad grammar is great when it rhymes, yes?)

I voluntarily chose to not carry my business cards while working with him. The next year, he hired me again for San Diego (in whatever summer the one-hit-wonder Chumba Wumba was over-played)

In 1998, at another gig in Minnesota, I began hearing complaints at the end-of-event sales table. (we used about 400 feet of hotel tables to display PAPER previews, then sold off of them by order forms).

The complaints were international! After a couple of polite Japanese woman asked “Will I receive these before your Christmas?”, I smiled, thinking they were trying their hand at American humor. A Canadian woman behind them chimed in with “Yeah, why did it take until after Christmas for my order to arrive?”

My smile disappeared. I began to feel embarrassed and eventually pissed! In my own studio, I couldn’t wait to get orders out - to feel done, especially when they prepaid me.

I shared this info with my employer, and offered to help him (for free) get prep, print and deliver them by August. (this was July, and we were shooting film). He declined my offer, stating “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got an assistant”.

Deja vu, it is now 1999, and I’m shooting/editing and selling for him in Kobe Japan. Knowing the brutality I was facing at the sales table, I felt entitled to ask for more money. I showed him the averages from our prior gigs, and asked for a base plus percentage over the average. He agreed, so I poured it on for both of us.

I made up meshi (name cards) written in US English, and in Katakana. (Romanized Japanese). Still not my business name, rather my email address with his consent. I intended to travel for six days after the convention, so I wanted these with me.

I hired two Japanese girls (daughters of attendees) who assisted by creating dual signs in both English and Japanese. The end result? We sold over USD $13,000 USD in initial sales.

The last night of the convention, the Canadian planner for the upcoming 2000 convention asked me if I would shoot for her in Toronto. I said “Well, that’s really up to [my photographer/boss]”.

“No, I mean we want you to be the one. We are sick of the delays…” I felt flattered, but “Honestly, I can’t do it. I wouldn’t even know you if it wasn’t for him hiring me. It just wouldn’t feel right.” She took one of my cards from the table, and said “we’ll see”.

He flew his assistant from Oregon to Japan to help us on sales day. While we edited I learned that he had never given her order forms before October or November. My jaw dropped, as she said “Same ole, same ole…”

The next day, I finished verifying the photo sales with him, $6000 over our average. ($1400 bonus for the week!)

As he paid me, I shared my ideas on getting the orders shipped within two weeks to impress the Canadians. Again, no interest.

On my way out of the hotel, the Canadian planner stopped me to ask: “Okay, so if I call your studio number to ask you in America, would you say yes?” I smiled, and gave her back her “We’ll see”.

My six days in Japan were A-MAZING!!! Memorable, event-filled and deepened my love for the country (and meditation).

A few months later, no photos in sight, I got the call from the incoming Canadian president to repeat the planner’s question. I explained how awkward this felt, and she replied with how disappointed their membership was.

My compromise, was that I would only respond to an RFP that was offered to him as well. I had already researched the Canadian business laws. They were required to include seven Canadian bids, so I figured I had lost it to my principles. Should my bid be selected, they were required to explain “why the American”. The complexity of this job was rationale enough, but now both of us ran the same risks.

I was awarded the Toronto job (then Anaheim, The Bahamas, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Australia, New Zealand and an Alaskan Cruise)

In the 90’s and 2000, nearly all Oregon professional photographers belonged to the same state organization. We had a code of ethics, and I exceeded it.

Just the same, I was subjected to sneers and isolation from anyone who considered my one-time ally their friend. Between photo conventions, and destination shoots, it was like he had his minions out to sabotage me.

After numerous attempts to prop him up, some were bold enough to query on their own for my truth. The only way I ever responded.

Knowing you are in-the-right when you hear the unjust rumors can really weigh heavy on you. Countless times I was tempted to voluntarily share my version in the midst of our mutual friends, but let it go.

Doing “the right thing” can be momentarily costly. It is also true that it can be pay off quite well in the longer run. By exercising my integrity and patience I profited in many ways.

Tens of thousands of dollars globally, Bucket-list stamps in my passport and I found my priceless bride! A path-crossing that made me grateful for a person I once held a strong dislike for.

To those of you that have not quite discovered the measure of your greatest deeds, never give up! I can honestly say that I found my Ultimate Partner, by doing the right thing. The people that really matter, will discover your Truth, sometimes after a long while.

This lesson has come up many times in my life, but with patience in place of my desire to react, it has led me to greater people and bigger opportunities.

Thank you Harvey, and RIP. I have you to thank for meeting my Ultimate Partner Cathy!


Brian Geraths

Passionate for nature, life, writing and sharing, this site is mutually dedicated to my three favorite vehicles through life - Photography, Writing and Speaking. As professional photographer I was (and still am) in my favored "Observer" mode. As writer, these observations exposed a deeper understanding into ethics, authenticity and leadership. As speaker, I get to be selfish. In giving we gain - big! By helping you to discover your own authenticity, passion and where you too are a leader, I get a huge pang of fulfillment. Yes, I am a giver - the most selfish sort of person that ever was. (that is, once you realize how great the results of giving truly are)