How To Steal $80,000

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Author of "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys"

Several years ago, I did some consulting for a large metropolitan gas utility.  We were talking about how tiny, little choices lead to huge results.

It didn’t take long for this group to get the concept, because they had just gone through a real-life example in their own company.

Once upon a time, there was a computer guy in the IT department.  His job was behind the scenes, working with software and writing programs. In fact it was so behind the scenes, nobody ever thought to check up on what he was doing.

He wasn’t really a dishonest person – just unappreciated.  That led to him feeling like a cog in a wheel – just doing a job that nobody noticed.

One of the programs he developed took the payments that were sent in by residents of the area and applied them to their accounts.

But he noticed that when the billing was done, the exact charges often ended with a fraction of a penny (rather than a whole number).  So if the calculations said that they owed $38.45-1/2 cents, the computer rounded it up to 46 cents.  So, the company got an extra half-cent on the bills of hundreds of thousands of customers each month.

That didn’t seem fair.  Why should the gas company get the profit instead of the public?

Pile of penniesSo he tweaked the program so that instead of the company getting that fraction of a cent, it would be diverted into a hidden account that only he had access to.  The money was now his.

The company got exactly what they should from the customer, so he rationalized that he wasn’t stealing from the company.  The customers never asked for their fraction of a cent, so there was no sense giving it to them. The program pretty much ran itself, and there were no safeguards to keep it from happening.

It was foolproof.  Nobody could find out, since he was in charge of the program.

The mistake he made was bragging about it to a trusted friend, who in turn reported him.

I don’t know how long he carried out his project.  But at the time of his arrest, his hidden account was valued at $80,000.

I think there’s a lot we can learn from that (other than not stealing from the gas company):

- Tiny choices, repeated often, yield huge results.

- Bad little choices turn into bad big habits.

- Good little choices turn into good big habits.

- Want to accomplish something huge? Take tiny steps and never stop.

- Want to avoid major pain in your life? Tiny choices count, so choose wisely with each one.

We are what we do repeatedly and over time.

Every choice counts.

Every day.

What choices will you make today that will shape your future?

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Author of "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys"

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Derek Atchley Dc

    so my question is… how do I get hired on to a utility company to do their programming?? LOL just kidding…

    Interesting, so much of everything I am reading, listening to, studying and applying right now deals with just that… little choices.

    We earn our life, health, happiness, sadness, struggle, success, sickness and on and on not (as you said) by the BIG choice, but by all the little ones that lead up to that.

    Great post!! Thanks