November 1, 2006
A season will be upon us next month that is renowned worldwide as an opportunity to display our generosity to others. Some look at it as a holiday season and others simply as a good opportunity for a tax break at the end of the year. Either way, the time is right for us all to be a little more generous.
Although many would suggest that gift-giving should be unconditional, it's OK to consider at least one benefit of your generosity: it could shine a positive light on the surveying profession. Although you might not be able to see the far-reaching effects of your efforts, your gift-giving could promote the profession to the public.
Doing anything well, including being generous, requires planning. Generosity can take many forms. Start thinking now about what you want to do to display your generosity. Here are several possibilities:
Time. Time can be given in many ways. In the field, you may spend extra time assisting those in training so they will someday be able to follow in your footsteps. In the office, you may politely explain (without sarcasm) to an uninformed "John Q. Public" when and why it is appropriate to hire a surveyor. And at home, you might take the time to remind your family who you are and that your life as a surveyor can co-exist with a spouse, kids and pets.
Product. What do you provide your customer? Whatever it is--maps, plats, data models, point clouds or even fence line staking services--your product should always meet or exceed current expectations. What you provided 20 years ago often will not be satisfactory today. What happened to McDonald's restaurants in the 1990s as fast-food burgers and fries went out of style? Profits tanked and McDonald's went in the red for the first time ever. Now McDonald's offers more healthy food (that tastes good, too) and it's making Wall Street happy again. Your product should not only make the likes of Washington, Lewis, Clark and Lincoln proud, but today's customer too. You may need to listen more closely to customers so you can produce exactly what they are looking for. This leads perfectly to my next point.
Customer Service. This category overlaps with time and product, but that's all right. Remember, there are many people out there who still enjoy good customer service. I am one of them. I rarely go to the big-box hardware stores because of their lack of customer service. Instead, I drive to my relic neighborhood hardware store where I always get the help I need--without waiting 15 minutes to find someone in the right department! The price is higher, but I am glad to pay it. Being generous enough to provide courteous customer service does not mean that you need to give your time away at no charge.
Employees. As business owners, treat your employees well and reward them for their efforts. Over the years, many surveyors have enjoyed giving and receiving the surveyor statues and half-scale Rittenhouse compasses that are for sale at POB's online store. Check them out on page 77, and visit store.pobonline.com to place an order. Also, make sure you're generous enough to determine what it is that your employees like to receive. Believe it or not, I hear that some surveyors occasionally like to get non-survey-related gifts.
Skills. Sometimes the best gift we can give involves what we do on a daily basis. There are many organizations out there building homes for the less fortunate. These nonprofit groups need every donation they can get, and that includes professionals donating their services. Here in the Detroit area, land surveyors are regularly needed for Habitat for Humanity projects. Investigate the options. Using your skills generously will certainly provide you with a great experience, and may include travel to an exotic location if you wisely choose where to donate your services. Your travel expenses may even qualify for a tax write-off.
This list is short and certainly not exhaustive. It is intended to get you thinking about how you can be generous and shine a positive light on your storied profession during this coming holiday season. And maybe the light you shine will be the ultimate gift itself.
Note: While Editor Lieca Hohner is on leave, POB Publisher Dan Murfey offers his perspective this month.