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JOE SAILS - A Business Behavioral Novel JOE SAILS
A Business
Behavioral Novel

Joe Sails is a story
about improving customer service by elevating employees' core
Media Coverage


By Dick Olenych, Inside Business - Hampton Roads - 8/5/2008

Gray is a really tough color. It’s the combination of white and black. At first glance it looks simple, but it can be a tough mix. The lighter the gray the more white that is in it, kind of. In lithographic print we don’t normally print white, so gray is really the absent of black ink and the white of the paper reflecting through the image.

Ethics used to be white or black, right or wrong. There was no gray area. Today the gray area of ethics in business is even more troublesome.

I normally talk and write about customer service or core competencies not ethics because I just don’t associate with unethical people. I’m a straight shooter. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been hoodwinked by dishonest people. I’ve lost a ton of money from shady individuals. I’m getting much better at protecting my company now. But, that’s not the gray area that I’m talking about though. Those individuals are just plain dishonest.

I’m talking about the gray area in business.

Let me give a couple of quick examples. Should vendors be loyal?

I once owned a Laundromat. It was a dirty business, but someone had to do it. My parts supplier from Maryland opened a “mat” less than a mile away as they expanded into “turn-key” offerings. They wanted to construct and sell new laundromats and then sell them. It was a great expansion plan, but I believe they used my ordering history as justification to move into my territory.

The second example is that I currently have a vendor, we’ll call company X. They are handing out my competitor’s brochures to my customers. They are trying to help their new client establish a foothold. That’s great for my competitor because it’s a strategic partnership with a very large company. I would love that kind of help and assistance. But who’s got the short end of the stick? Me and every other customer of company X? My father-in –law used to call this kind of stuff, “dirty pool”.

Both of these actions certainly aren’t unlawful. They are just NOT right. They are borderline unethical

Companies today are playing in the gray area and it is hurting how business gets done. Ethics should never be a discussion around lawfulness. Ethics should held on a higher plane.

Starwood Resorts published a survey in June of 2002 and found that 82% of corporate executives admitted to cheating on the golf course. Is it unlawful to cheat? Of course not. Is it unethical? Yes!

I believe strongly that some businesses today are dancing in the gray area and that’s not a good thing because it’s too close to the line. Each of us needs to constantly monitor what we are doing and why. Ethics should be a basis of who we are not what we can do…legally.

Let me leave you with a final example. Is it OK to try to pass blame to someone else when you know it was your fault?

My son recently was sideswiped and the vehicle sped off. So after all of the police reports and interviews the insurance company came out to assess the damage. Prior to the accident he was missing a hubcap. It would have been very easy to put that hubcap as part of the accident. He chose not to.

I was very proud of his decision.

Ethics is more than business. It is a personal choice. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

Dick Olenych is the President of Spectrum Printing and the author of the internationally acclaimed book Joe Sails. He can be reached at dick@joesails.info.

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