By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker
Originally Published on LinkedIn
From the time I launched my company, USI, I was committed to build a culture of trust and integrity. I had learned the importance of business ethics from some of the finest corporations in the world including IBM and Hewlett-Packard. These companies enjoyed tremendous profit and growth while going out of their way to teach, manage, and deliver ethical behavior. It seemed very clear to me that you could do the right thing, feel very good about it, and make plenty of money. Profits did not come at the expense of ethical behavior. Quite the contrary, profits resulted from ethical behavior.
I have had the opportunity to work for some terrific managers that set the bar on ethical standards. Likewise, I have been burned by bosses that exercised poor judgment, blatant mismanagement, and a lack of integrity. Some of these painful experiences left scar tissue that I will never forget. When starting USI I made a pact with myself that I would build a business where integrity was nurtured and mismanagement would not be tolerated. I felt so strongly about the importance of ethical behavior and mutual accountability that every employment offer included the following language:
This employment offer is based on your commitment to USI’s Standard Business Practices and Operating Philosophy including:
- Making commitments and keeping them
- Providing total quality and integrity in everything you do
- Being a team player
- Holding yourself accountable to the USI team, and
- Holding the USI team accountable to you.
By documenting our commitment to a culture of integrity, we strengthened all our internal and external relationships.
Beyond offer letters, we made it clear to all employees that we understood that every now and then a mistake would inevitably happen. We wanted to create an environment where employees were not afraid to acknowledge mistakes. We knew that apologizing for a mistake right away would enhance trust; whereas, attempting to cover up mistakes would only damage relationships. Our motto was to acknowledge mistakes early and, when necessary, make reparation. Using this simple, straightforward approach of acknowledging mistakes saved us millions in legal fees and built powerful and profitable long-term customer relationships.
Ethical behavior influenced every aspect of our business. We believed in fulfilling every promise in every contract and paying every employee and vendor in full and on time. We wanted everyone to know how much we valued and appreciated the relationship. We knew ethical behavior engendered loyalty and trust.
Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book “The Purpose Is Profit: Secrets of a Successful Entrepreneur from Startup to Exit” with Wyn Lydecker and Paul McLaughlin.
Copyright © 2014 by Ed McLaughlin All rights reserved.