A Young Entrepreneur’s Lesson in Honesty

I have always been an entrepreneur. Even when I was working for someone else, I always had a side gig or two. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, which is to say that I have always had a mindset that actively seeks change, embraces fear, strives for growth, and embraces innovation rather than passively waiting for it. My earliest memory of possessing this “attitude” was when I was six or seven years old. My Auntie Fran was a successful real estate agent, and she hired my brother, who was one year younger, and me to deliver her business flyers throughout the neighbourhood. She offered us half a cent for each flyer we delivered, and I remember thinking we were going to get rich. With wide eyes full of excitement, we stocked our little red wagon full of three-fold flyers, and off we went.

At first, the job was fun. We felt so grown up. We told anyone who would listen to us that we had a job. We were delivering flyers. We were going to get rich. But as the sun rose higher and the morning retired, we were not quite as eager anymore. We were starting to realize this was a lot of work! We went from one street to the next, down back alleys and up gravel side roads, but the wagon seemed to get heavier the more we walked. My little brother and his little legs were having trouble keeping up, and when you looked at the mound of paper in the wagon, it was hard to notice we had made any dent in it. Now my legs were getting tired. Finally, and I don’t recall if it was my brother or me, but someone got the brilliant idea that if we delivered three or four flyers to each house instead of just one, we would reach our goal much faster. With a renewed sense of focus, we garnered enough energy to carry on for a bit longer, and then we decided to call it quits for the day. (It seemed like we were gone all day, but really, it was only a few hours. You know, with little kids, everything seems so much more expansive)

When we got home, Auntie Fran was waiting for us with arms crossed and a stern look. My brother and I looked at each other and then down at the floor. Oh, oh… the jig was up. Apparently, some neighbour called Auntie Fran complaining that they had just received four copies of the same flyer in their mailbox. Can you imagine that? We were politely reprimanded about Auntie’s reputation and the fact that we were being dishonest. But in our defence, we were just little kids, so Auntie Fran decided to give us a chance to redeem ourselves. Phew!

We quickly ate breakfast the next day, grabbed our wagon, and left. We planned to deliver as many flyers as possible so Auntie Fran would pay us sooner. We hurried from street to street, placing just one darn flyer into each stupid neighbour’s mailbox, when one of us got another great idea. We talked it through and figured the plan was solid, so we raced to the park and started digging up the sand underneath the swing set. Once we had a large enough hole, we buried all the flyers and walked home with smug looks, which were very short-lived.

We raced into the house and were so excited that we blurted out, “We’re done! We delivered them all! When can we get paid?” Our mom’s eyebrows were crossed, and she was now crossing her arms, which meant, oh, oh… the jig was up. There was a long pause, and I was afraid to say anything, so I just stood there looking down at the floor. Finally, Auntie Fran broke the silence, “Sharon Ann, there’s no way in hell you two could have delivered all 2,000 flyers since yesterday!” We stood there staring at each other, petrified to speak. Eventually (probably immediately, but again, in a kid’s mind, it took for-ev-er), we came clean and told the grownups that we had buried all the flyers in the park underneath the swing set. I can still see the disappointed looks on their faces. That was the last time we worked for Auntie Fran. She fired us on the spot, and that was the end of my aspiring flyer delivery career.

As we stood there, feeling the weight of our actions, I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of honesty and integrity in business. This lesson has stayed with me throughout my entrepreneurial journey.

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