Volume 35, Number 1, January 2000

Dear USG


Taking an Ethical Stand

Dear USG:

Ethics, integrity, decency, honesty, virtue, honor. Are these words we save for our personal lives and exclude from our business life? Peter Drucker said, “There is no such thing as business ethics. There is just ethics.” Ethical people have the same set at home as they do at work.

Can you remember when the value of a person’s word was irrevocable? Society has been changing the rules as evidenced by our political leaders. It’s hard to criticize the tactics they use when we have allowed these changes to occur over time. They are no different from the people we talk to on a daily basis. Wouldn’t you like to deal with customers, creditors, coworkers, even competitors without wondering if what is promised is going to occur? Can you imagine being in an environment where first we make the commitment, then follow through? I’m suggesting if we choose to be ethical people, we face the challenge of honesty. Wouldn’t we all have an easier time if we could believe in the word of those we come in contact with?

It seems to me that today, verbal or written contracts are mere points of negotiations. What would happen to the legal profession if our commitment was our actual intention? Is it possible that everybody suing everybody else is because we no longer keep our word? Too many people think that when they enter into an agreement, they never completely meant whatever was said and are willing to challenge the contract if the situation becomes inconvenient at a later date. I have had the experience of non-compete agreements with ex-employees, purchase agreements with customers, promissory notes and a good deal of other legally-binding documents. These signed or sworn to notarized agreements, I’m sorry to report, are not worth the paper they are printed on if the person involved is not ethical.

We have kept the legal profession growing in good and bad economic times. This may not be solely the result of the need for legal reforms, but because we need to begin to say what we mean and mean what we say. How do we make the shift? It takes courage. You will not see integrity penciled out as a line on your profit and loss statement. But if you have the courage to do what is right, in spite of financial costs, you will see it reflected in those around you and in your heart. Sometimes, you do have to “give it away” because you were wrong for whatever reason. Do it and move on. You are setting the standard for others to follow.

Being in business is a constant challenge. Everyday we are faced with decisions that move the code of right and wrong from black and white to shades of gray: using tempered glass where required, scheduling, honesty, billing insurance companies accurately, etc. When you are able to say, “We don’t do business that way” you may surprise some, but have courage because there is a payoff—a reputation of one who can be trusted! Maybe we can’t change society all at once, but we can improve our industry by having good people take a stand.

George Alexander
Alexander & Alexander
Management Advisory Services
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

 Editor’s Note: Mr. Alexander is a former owner and president of Rebco West in CA. The above article was reprinted with permission from the November/December 1999 issue of Glazing magazine.


Copyright 2000 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.