You Win Races Only When You Finish

Several few years ago we needed to have some carpet replaced in our home. My wife and I hired a company that came highly recommended, and we paid a premium price for the new carpet and the work. When the installers were done, my wife almost cried because the room looked so bad. 

I assured her we could fix the problem, and quickly gathered the carpet scraps, ran the vacuum over the new floor covering, and redid the baseboards. I even added to my tool collection some carpet tools they had left behind. After the furniture was moved back, the room looked beautiful. 

The installer simply had not cared enough to finish the job. Needless to say, we never called him again and would not have given a favorable recommendation to anyone if asked. 

Recently I had a bad experience with an automotive tire shop. Among other things, the tires on my car wore out prematurely because they had not been balanced correctly. After some discussion, the shop owners agreed to give me a new set of tires at a huge discount. 

They had an opportunity to win me back as a customer, but when I picked up my car, I found the alloy wheels were scuffed and covered with grease. I spent about thirty minutes cleaning and polishing the wheels, but they are still scuffed. Yes, I had new tires, but the work was totally unsatisfactory. 

To use an analogy from competitive sports, both companies could have won the race but failed to even reach the finish line. They did not care about me, my wife, the appearance of our home or the condition of my car. In baseball terminology, they could have hit a home run, but failed to pass third base.

I am a photographer, and one of my commitments is to offer my customers the assurance that I will be swinging for the fences and will not stop until they are not only satisfied, but also delighted with their results. Regardless of what kind of business you are in or what types of products or services you provide, this should be your goal as well. 

This determination to provide the best service possible makes practical sense. In many cases the future of our businesses depend on having customers that use us again and again. Also, the best advertisement for any company is a satisfied customer. At the same time, dissatisfied customers can be disastrous. And the fact is, an unhappy customer is many times more likely to tell others about the experience. 

But there is an even better reason for striving for excellence, for doing work to the best of our ability. In the Bible’s New Testament, it says, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:17,23).

Each of us has received unique abilities, talents and experience that enable us to do the work that we do. One way of showing appreciation for what we have received is to use these to the best of our abilities.

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager, and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever had a bad experience in working with a business, whether a product you received or services that were provided? What were your feelings about that – and how did you respond?

2.  Why do you think some individuals and some businesses seem to be content with providing substandard work and services?

3.  Have you ever realized that you failed to do your best work on a project or assignment, whether at your workplace or in serving a customer or client? If so, what – if anything – did you do about it?

4.  Mr. Mathis points to the admonition from the Bible, which says that whatever we do, we should do our work “with all our heart, as working for the Lord” and “in the name of Jesus.” What are your thoughts about that?

If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages:

Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, 12:24, 14:23, 18:9, 22:29, 27:18; Ecclesiastes 3:9-12; Colossians 3:24-25


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