During my life, I have worked for some of the largest corporations, companies, and organizations in the USA. These include the U.S. Navy, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, RBC, Wachovia, and Verizon.
I saw and experienced many wonderful and honest business practices. Sadly, I saw even more of the other side of that coin.
Did it make a difference to me and on me? You bet! I walked away from a couple of those mentioned above after being told, directed, or ordered to do the wrong thing in order to benefit that individual or organization.
Did I always gain anything for taking what I still consider to be the correct stand? Hardly!
In some cases, it cost me dearly. However, to this day, I truly believe that doing the right thing in business is the ONLY way to truly win and create a winning business or organization.
As I am sure YOU do, I have many in the business world that I look up to. It may be ironic or smart, but they are all no longer with us.
One of my biggest heroes, who I had the privilege of meeting very briefly due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time; I, as usual, was on an adventure and got lost. I ended up at a Chick-fil-A and walked in on a day when Mr. S. Truett Cathy happened to be there.
For those who know how shy I really am, they would be shocked at how I boldly approached this man and introduced myself as a student of his business practices.
He kindly, patiently spent a few minutes with me answering questions and then asked me to wait for him a minute. He came back shortly and handed me a copy of his book, "Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People", which he had inscribed with his favorite quote and guiding principle (Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”) and then autographed the book for me.
As a collector of quotes, here are some sterling examples from this wonderful human being:
"No amount of business school training or working experience can teach what is ultimately a matter of personal character. Businesses are not dishonest or greedy, people are. Thus, a business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership."
"We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed…"
"There is no such thing as business ethics, it’s personal ethics, it’s people who makes things happen."
Another fine human and sterling example of a business leader was Og Mandino. Mr. Mandino, who died in 1996. I think before he died, I had read everything out there that he had ever written. Here are some of his gems:
“Never feel shame for trying and failing, for he who never failed is he who never tried.”
“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”
“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.”
“Sound character provides the power with which a person may ride the emergencies of life instead of being overwhelmed by them. Failure is… the highway to success.”
“Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.”
Another in the business realm that I truly admired for a couple of reasons, was Mary Kay Ash, founder of the Mary Kay empire.
This woman was a true visionary who built a multi-level marketing business. She founded that business in Dallas, TX in 1963 until her death in November, 2001.
She succeeded in a man's world. And, here are some gems from her:
"Make every day count. Make every hour count. Make every minute count.
And don't stop until you have exercised your full potential, realizing your impossible dream and fulfilling your total destiny to become the person that you, and only you , are capable of being."
"The definition of successful people is simply ordinary people with extraordinary determination. You cannot keep determined people from success. If you place stumbling blocks in their way, they will use them for stepping-stones and climb to new heights. People who succeed have a goal, a dream and make their plans and follow them."
And the last of my personal heroes I wish to address and/or share today is Harriet Tubman. Ms. Tubman was born in Maryland in 1822 and died in Auburn, NY in 1913.
Ms. Tubman was born in slavery, escaped, and then spent her time helping to move as many people as she could along the Underground Railroad to freedom. That, however, was NOT her only extraordinary accomplishment. For those interested in learning more about this courageous and farsighted woman, please take the time to research her.
Though, not technically a business person, she accomplished something that very few others would even attempt. And, so, here are some quotes from this remarkable human being:
"Most of those coming from the mainland are very destitute, almost naked. I am trying to find places for those able to work, and provide for them as best I can, so as to lighten the burden on the Government as much as possible, while at the same time they learn to respect themselves by earning their own living."
All of these people have several things in common. The one that has always attracted me to each has been their integrity and commitment to doing the right things for the right reasons.
So, after learning a little bit of something about each and reading their quotes, I leave it to you to decide if doing the right thing in business (and in life) is the right thing.