This article was originally posted in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on Tuesday, May 8, 2012
PUBLISHER: MICHAEL B. KRAMER | EDITOR: OLIVIA CLARKE
Last Sunday morning, my family and I decided to go out for breakfast. We went to a place that was known for good food and reasonable prices. When we arrived, the restaurant was practically empty. This surprised us given it was Sunday during brunch. Regardless, we were grateful to be seated right away. It was nearly 10 minutes before a waitress came to our table. We exchanged pleasantries with her and she told us that, “due to the economy”, business has been slow. She said the restaurant used to be packed on Sunday mornings. She then took our drink order. The adults ordered coffee and the kids ordered chocolate milk. Several more minutes passed and we still hadn’t gotten our drinks. The kids were by now done with the games on their children’s menus and getting restless. Finally, after about ten minutes, she brought our drinks and was prepared to take our food orders. We placed our orders, nothing complicated – no special
orders – we ordered directly off the menu. Several more minutes had then passed, our coffee cups long since empty and the chocolate milk was all gone. Finally, our food had arrived. There was four of us this day and four orders. One order was correct, one out of four. We told her of the errors and she reluctantly said she would take care of them, as she rolled her eyes. Did she think that my 10 year old son would ignore the fact that there was no cheese in his ham and cheese omelet? Did she think we did not really want the sides of pancakes that came with our selections? And our coffee cups remained empty. Eventually, she got things right we ate breakfast.
The food was good, though it was hard to enjoy, given the service we were getting. When we were done, we waited again, way too long, for our bill, the kids now jumping out of their skin. We paid the bill and left, vouching to not go back to this restaurant given the service we received. As I drove home that day, I remembered our first encounter with the waitress that day when she complained about the economy. “Maybe she is what’s wrong with the economy, at least in part”, I thought to myself. It occurred to me that every day, I see doom-and-gloom stories on the news about the poor state of our economy. I go to the courthouse and have conversations with my colleagues about these tough economic times . I come back to my office and sometimes have to deal with my firm’s service providers, many times with dissatisfaction (and I don’t think I’m too hard to satisfy). Everyone seems to talk about how times are tough and the economy stinks. We blame Wall Street, Bush, Obama, Fannie, Freddie… However, I never hear anyone take personal responsibility. I never hear anyone say something like, “I’m going to start doing my part to help the economy. I’m going to start doing my job better.”
Now to say, as the saying goes, “I refuse to participate in the recession” is juvenile to me. The truth is that our economy is not in good shape. It’s hard not to be affected, if not financially, then emotionally. A lot of bad decisions were made by a lot of people. Unfortunately, many innocent bystanders got caught up in that web.
Many of these people lost their jobs, their money, their homes…If you are not one of them, how can you at least not “feel” for these folks? It does no one any good to stick our heads in the sand and pretend the economy is just fine. It isn’t. However, if we want America to be the way that it once was, then we must act accordingly. If in all lines of work, if we all stopped playing so much of the blame game and just did our jobs better, our economy would be better, not perfect, but better. I’ve decided to do my part. The next work day, I called for an immediate firm meeting to discuss what we can do to help the economy, i.e., how we were going to do our jobs better. We discussed the fact that we’ve been touched by the economy like many other businesses. Collectively, we decided to do something about improving the economy, not complain about it. We decided that that the quickest way to improve the economy was to do our jobs better. We committed to listen more carefully to our clients. We committed to not cutting corners, to promptly return phone calls and emails, to live up to our promises, to create trust with each and every one of our clients. We agreed that if we all do our jobs better, we are in essence, getting the economy get back on track, or at least we are helping. Take the waitress that I referenced earlier in this article. My hunch is that she goes home after work and complains about the economy – “no one has enough money to leave good tips anymore…” I sincerely doubt that she thinks, “maybe I can help out myself and the restaurant I work at by doing my job better.” If she would have given my family better service, that probably would have helped her and therefore, the restaurant, therefore helping the economy. I wonder how many other people stopped going to that restaurant because of her poor service and even worse attitude?
As long as many of us who are fortunate to be employed play the blame game rather than improving the way we do our jobs, the poor state of our economy will only be prolonged. I believe that if more of us do our jobs better, the economy will improve. Americans will regain confidence in capitalism, our economy and each other. Isn’t that better than the alternative?
Matthew L. Willens is the founder of Willens Law Offices, a personal injury law firm. Willens has a unique understanding of the dynamics of serious injury and wrongful death cases because he has experience from both sides of the aisle. In addition to 15 years of handling a variety of plaintiff personal injury cases, he also worked for a major insurance company where he managed the strategic direction of million-dollar-plus cases. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org