The Chemical Coaters Association International held its 2003 annual meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, June 21-24. The meeting provided an outstanding educational program along with a wide variety of activities to help promote networking within the industry.

The theme for this meeting was “Survival Island,” a focus on techniques and business practices for prosperity in any economy, including a period of general economic weakness.

The educational program had something for everyone in business, including management of the workforce, business operations and marketing.

One program that was appropriate for the current economic conditions and business world was titled “Surviving in Tough Times: Ideas, Strategies and Behavior Needed to Survive & Thrive.” Delivered by Steve Houston, vice president of sales and marketing at DuPont Powder Coatings, the discussion centered around measurement and planning for success.

Houston provided excellent insights into the difference between a successful business and an also-ran. He asked the audience to write down what they thought separated a prosperous company from one that struggles to make a profit and grow. Answers that were turned in included planning, employee training, motivation, incentives, etc. “Each of these things is a part of the answer,” he said. He then listed the items that hold a company back:

  • No significant difference in products
  • No significant difference in service
  • No significant difference in economy
  • No significant difference in market
  • No significant difference in personnel skills
In a surprise addition to his presentation, Houston was joined by his brother Dave to talk about ethics in business. In a world that challenges us every day to perform, produce revenue and keep ahead of the competition, we may sometimes find ourselves tempted to bend the rules. Some companies may decide to relegate ethics to a subservient role to results, mistakenly assuming that shortcuts will help them beat their competition. In reality, a consistent and sound policy with ethics at the forefront can lead to higher profits and a company that will last for generations. We have only to consider recent events at Worldcom, Enron, Arthur Anderson and others to see what cheating can do to the future of a company. Still, we see evidence that companies may decide to drive their businesses on a “just do it” basis. They overestimate the value of doing it wrong and underestimate the value of doing it right. Houston quoted the ancient Greek Judge Aristittus, who said, “Character is what you do when no one is looking.” He also quoted Cheryl Biehl, who said, “If you can’t trust a person at all points, you can’t trust them at any point.”

How do ethics affect business success?

  • 74% of purchasing agents say that they select their vendors based on trust.
  • 88% of workers say they want to work for a company that treats them fairly.
  • 73% of vendors prefer supplying to businesses that are honest and exhibit integrity.
Of course they do! Who wants to buy from someone they can’t trust, work for someone who is not fair, or sell to someone who is not honest? Be careful that your company policy is driven by ethical decisions and honesty. Many companies have found it more convenient to let their sales goals and competitive forces affect the level of honesty they run their businesses with.