Painting the Dog’s House – A Tale About Going the Extra Mile

Some years ago, a group of friends chartered a large catamaran to sail the outer islands of Tahiti (Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora and Huahine). It was the trip of a lifetime for each of us, a dream we had held close.

Sailing is sometimes different from the pink hued imagining of dreamers, and our cruise was marred by awful weather – rain squalls almost every day, storms and unrelenting gloom. Through it all we kept our humor and, with the benefit of favored drinks, became better friends with each other.

Tahiti, in those pre-Internet days, had limited and spotty telephone service. Finding a working telephone brought excitement that rivaled finding a lunch wagon serving poisson-cru.

When we arrived in Uturoa to return the boat to its charterer, several of us asked to use the telephone. It was early morning and the attending staff lady, seeing our soggy shoes and clothes, graciously allowed us to use the phone. A little while later the company’s senior staff came to work, and there was undisguised grumbling about our use of the telephone.

Back on the boat after packing our belongings, we sat in the covered cockpit, reliving the trip and the irritation of the boat charterers’ staff that morning.

Al, a senior executive at a large construction company in Honolulu, told the story of his summer job when he was 15 years old and living in Cleveland. Al’s father was a painting contractor and had hired Al to help paint houses. One morning Al had finished the project by 10 a.m.; he called his father and asked if he could take the rest of the day off because the job was completed. His father quizzed Al about the job and was satisfied that the job was done. He then asked Al if the property had a dog house, as he remembered seeing a dog when he had bid the job. Al said yes, that he had seen a dog house.

His father directed Al to paint the dog’s house, and gave explicit directions on the color, telling Al to take particular care in painting the eaves and moldings, to make sure that those were of a contrasting color. Al protested that it was not part of the job, but his father insisted that the work be done and impeccably. Unhappy Al spent the rest of that sweaty, summer day painting, wishing he was elsewhere.

Three days later, the company got a contract to paint another house in the same neighborhood. When Al and his father finished compiling the specifications of the work to be done, Al’s father asked the owner how and why she had hired their company. The owner had seen the paint job on the neighboring house and the neighbor kept talking about what a fabulous paint job had been done, especially pointing out the newly painted dog house and noting that she had not been charged for it.

I have always remembered the story, though I am not sure to this day if it was an original or an adaptation. At HDEP International, we understand that every customer has a dog’s house and painting the dog’s house, impeccably and without expectation, is as important as painting the main house.

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