Letter from The President: Fall, 2014
October 26, 2014
My father used to tell me stories when I was young—like lots of fathers do with lots of sons. Sometimes there was a message, other times he was trying to be a comedian. His attempts at humor were often so bad that they ended up being hysterically funny—just like a puppy that is so god awfully ugly, it’s actually cute. But his messages were spot on.
As a young married man, my father, fresh out of the navy, took his first serious civilian job with a large, old-school, very respectable construction firm. He was a mechanical engineer and part of a team that was organizing a sealed bid on a very large project. The bid was successful, securing a project that would take two years to complete. But, days after the euphoria, my father discovered he had made a huge error in his calculations, a misplaced decimal point that resulted in a bid low enough to win the contract, but at a cost that would seriously challenge the financial stability of the company.
Assuming he would be fired, he delivered the bad news to the owner of the firm. While it would have been possible to default on the bid due to a “technical” error, the embarrassment and the loss of credibility rendered that option a non-starter. Instead, the boss called in all of the subcontractors, top firms large and small that he had done business with for years. Defaulting on the bid could have crippled some of these firms, and their employees as well. They had committed to the project, were not involved in the bids submitted by other entities, and had bypassed other jobs. The domino effect of the misplaced decimal point was devastating.
Cutting to the chase, all of the subcontractors agreed to do the job at cost. The owners of my father’s firm took no profit from the project—they paid for the materials needed, and the employees’ salaries, and that was it.
My father had made a mistake, fessed up, and was prepared to bear the consequences. It was not fun--but he did not get fired, or demoted, or even shunned. His employer was obviously a man of unusual character and integrity. So were the many subcontractors who rallied to the aid of their partners and employees.
The message was not only to own your mistakes and take the heat. His point was to act with honor, and surround yourself with people of integrity as well.
We have done that at NYTHA. The membership has elected a Board of Directors that has given considerable time for the good of the industry, and all are people of significant character. The integrity of the staff and the professionals working for NYTHA is also beyond reproach. Opinions on issues may differ, but the people I proudly serve beside, and those working on our behalf, are exactly the people you want on your side. Good people--people my father would have liked.