Lately, we’re all asking, “Where’s the shame?” as we see the recovering banking industry giving huge bonuses and pay increases to the very execs who helped get us into the recession and then received bailout money from taxpayers. But we have enough ethical lapses of our own in Southwest Florida; some folks are even calling us Ponzi Central. There’s Art Nadel’s Ponzi scheme, and now Ponzi allegations against Sarasota’s Beau Diamond and John and Marian Morgan, who were extradited from Sri Lanka last December. And then, of course, we have local realtors charged with lying about Chinese drywall, the recent epidemic of real estate flipping, and mortgage and insurance fraud.
It’s easy to feel cynical about all of this and say that unethical behavior is an unavoidable consequence of capitalism. But Sarasota newcomer Terry Miller, an executive coach, believes “business ethics” is not an oxymoron; and he convinced us and other business leaders that it’s time to have a conversation about integrity in business. His new Sarasota Business Ethics Alliance (beasarasota.com) will offer monthly events on the topic and is initiating the Sarasota Business Ethics Awards as well.
I attended the first panel discussion in April. Panelist Steve Martin of Canandaigua National Bank & Trust, which just opened an office on Main Street in Sarasota, says his company prints its values of honesty and integrity on the back of every employee’s business card, and employees will be fired for violating the code. Al Carlson of Sun Hydraulics, another panelist, says his company prides itself on its honorable reputation but—and here’s what businesspeople really want to know—that being good is good for the bottom line. Sun Hydraulics does not have to waste time attracting or educating potential customers about its business practices because people already trust the company, he says. Martin summed it up best: “Behave as though your mother were watching.”
We don’t have to tell any of our “Best Bosses” (page 16) that Mom is watching. We found six extraordinary leaders who model the behavior they want their organizations and employees to live by. One of our Best Boss judges, Felice Schulaner, the former head of H.R. at Coach Inc., says integrity tops her list of the traits of a good boss. “You have to have confidence in your boss,” she says. All our judges say that the corporate culture of a company is set at the very top, and no matter how far away your boss is, that culture permeates down to the last little cubicle. Some 121 happy employees, who submitted the nominations we received, insisted their bosses would make Mom proud.
And for a fun—and useful—look at the office environment, read “The Seven Deadly Co-workers” on page 26. You’ll find smart tips for dealing with co-workers who drive you mad.