Simple Thoughts in Business Ethics

Yesterday was the greatest…….  presented to 160 high school students at St. John’s University located about sixty miles northwest of Minneapolis.  It was all about simple thoughts in Business Ethics.

Minnesota Business Venture is a week-long residential summer enrichment program that brings high school students and business professionals together from across the state to spend a week on a college campus and learn about business, financial literacy, and career information.  The program includes a session on Business Ethics and also covers personal ethics.

Moderating the talks was Hank Shea, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for twenty years, and now Distinguished Fellow teaching Ethical Leadership at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. 

What a great guy and what a background!!

The kids knew about Hank’s background and training, but knew nothing about me.  I was the surprise present in the Christmas stocking. 

What is more important than Business Ethics, personal ethics, and doing the right thing?

The kids heard my story about being an officer of a privately held family company.

They heard how I oversaw a scheme ten years ago to defraud a multi-billion dollar publicly held company out of computer parts we were not entitled to receive.  Forget about Business Ethics

Why did I do it?  Oh, there was some greed.  But, it was pure revenge in the purest form.

This beast of a company interfered in our business on a continued basis. …… and eventually I was indicted for mail/wire fraud and money laundering.

The lack of Business Ethics in our company cost me eleven months of  freedom.  That’s a hefty price to pay. 

Plus, I pay restitution back to the U.S. District Court monthly.  That dough would help fund my oldest boy’s college.  NOT.

Kudos to the high school kids for staying awake in the afternoon discussions.  So, listen up and take heed to the following:

1) Do not contemplate putting yourself first.   If you do,  you’re on a destructive and corrosive path. 

People who are egotistical, self centered, self serving, and self righteous inevitably are arrogant and greedy.

2) One shortcut leads to another.  Each time a shortcut occurs, it becomes easier to rationalize and justify what behavior you exhibited. 

This leads to entitlement and greater errors in judgment that cross over to illegal actions.

3) There is no place for greed and arrogance.  Replace them with grace and humility.

As I said to the kids and will say to any reader, personal ethics and business ethics are attached at the hip.  The first step then is to have an inward examination of yourself before the outward examination reveals itself to others.  Always strive to do the right thing!!



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