The course on business strategy had been tough and arduous.

An assessment was scheduled to measure progress. All of the students had worked hard in preparation spending many hours studying and memorising formulas to do calculations for the case studies.

With nervous anticipation, they waited for the professor to hand out the exam paper.

The test was on one piece of paper, which really surprised the students because they thought it would be longer than that. 

Once everyone had their paper, the professor said, “Go ahead and turn it over.”

The students did so and quickly realised that both sides of the paper were blank.

Next, the professor said: “Over the weeks and months I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business strategy, but the most important message, the most important question you must answer, is this: What’s the name of the man who cleans this building?”

Surely this was some kind of joke thought the students. Sure many of them had seen the cleaner several times. He was tall, dark-haired and in his 50s, but how would they know his name? 

All of the students handed in their answer paper blank. Before class ended, one student asked if the test would count toward the final course grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘Hello’.”

The students never forgot the lesson – it had a powerful impact. For many, it was the only test they ever failed. 

In just a matter of hours, the students learned his name was Doug. They didn’t know Doug. They had seen him but ever taken the time to ask his name. All vowed from that day on to know every ‘Doug’ they would ever work with in the future.

The story is a great reminder of what really matters in life, and that you should never lose sight of people who do the real work.

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