Business Ethics Word Collage

Life is a Business – Chapter 5

A series of essays on the past, the present, and the future

When I was in my early 20’s, I asked an older guy the definition of “business ethics”.  He quickly told me: “They were what the old guys on top of the hill roll downward at us scrambling bastards trying to climb up!” You kids play fair, or do as I say, not as I did. Even criminals and crooks have a code of conduct when cheating the system. In the legendary story of a famous Texan politician stealing an election by voting dead people, the team found a tombstone with the name John Henry William Jones and whispered: “we can split this into two names and get another vote”. The tall Texan Senator said: “Nah, boys…we’ll steal this election fair and square, or not at all!”

Golf is the only sport where you are obligated to penalize yourself, for there is no policeman, referee or inspector, just your own integrity. Business for the most part is that way until you cross the line into serious offenses that get the attention of the law. As you start out in business, you will be weighed on the scales of integrity by vendors, employers, employees, customers and coworkers alike.  Remember there is only one chance to make a first impression. Either a good or bad reputation sticks for a long time, but the bad one is much harder to lose. A wise man told me once that we were each born with a snow white apron on and the only stains that could be placed upon it were by us-no one else can do it for or to us!  Those stains are there because of choices we made that were less than honorable in our lives. There are the sins of commission and the sins of omission…when we stand by and allow bad to happen.

I have known folks who would climb a tree to tell a big lie rather than stand on level ground and tell the truth-it is just their nature. In the jungle and in life, there are lions and foxes…the foxes want to be a lion, but just cannot. The parables about stripes on zebras and spots on leopards never changing, even with a coat of paint are important lessons. Once you are defined, glossing over your character flaws is a fruitless exercise. People can truly change, but it will take many years for others to see you as a person of integrity and good moral fiber. Your past and present predict your future-we all know that is true.

In the end, it is much easier to be honest. There are some nice lies that do no harm and make others feel better about themselves, so don’t be an absolutist! Telling people the cold, brutal truth can be destructive to both your strategy and to them as human beings. If I need to explain what types of questions to answer with a spoon of sugar, you need to go ask your Momma for advice. If Momma is no longer available, ask your wife or any other living, breathing woman. They know from the beginning of time how to achieve their goals by pumping up a little man’s ego.

Don’t ever have to wake up and coordinate today’s lies with yesterday’s story. Your life will be better in every respect sticking with the truth.

By: Bill Hewgley