by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. (Dr. Printing) February 23, 2004 -- Question: Doctor Printing, we have been in some situations lately regarding our business where it seems that if we follow the more ethical path, we tend to lose out in a business situation. Is there a way to find balance in our world? Doctor Printing: I guess you could not find a more difficult question. I mean, this is pretty deep stuff! No problem, I have been in deep stuff most of my life. The answer is: Yes. The truth is that one does not preclude the other. They are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary; in my opinion, one leads to the other. Doing Things Right should always mean Doing The Right Thing. It may not always seem that way, especially in the short term, but business, like life, is not about the short term. Making a decision that is ethically questionable in order to gain a competitive advantage, or a one-time profit never makes sense in the long run. And you are in this for the long run, right? "The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was." Anonymous A friend and business associate recently were giving me some grief about the extent to which I was helping someone who was not signed up as a client. In other words, I was going out of my way in terms of time and resources in order to resolve a problem that was not really my problem. In the process, I became somewhat stuck in the middle. There was virtually no chance that my involvement in this situation would generate any business for my company, short term or long term. Nor was it likely to generate any good will that would later payoff somehow. There was, in fact, a good likelihood that my involvement would end up with me being in some kind of bad light in the view of the two parties involved. In other words, virtually no upside, lots of downside. What kind of business person would allow themselves to get sucked into a mess like that? Should I not just walk away and let them fight it out themselves? Not my problem, right? Wrong. At least for me. I knew that I could, and should, help resolve the situation. In my mind, I was doing the right thing, and someone needed to step up and do it. So I did. It is not always about doing what allows you to sleep well. Anyone who knows me knows that I never sleep well. It is not about sleeping better, it is part of the bigger picture, the one in which we see ourselves. Think of viewing your life from the outside, as if your life is a movie. What do you see? Are there episodes where you had the chance to do the right thing and chose not to? Of course. We have all done that at one time or another. More often than not, hopefully you will take the opportunity to help where it is needed, for no reason other than there is a need. Do not worry about recognition. Do not worry about being thanked. Do not worry about whether someone will consider your actions to be stupid. You know what is right. You know when you can make a difference. You know how to leave more than you take. Do it! You know when your actions feel wrong at a gut level. When it seems you or your company will gain, but at the expense of someone else. Do not do it! It is not worth it, no matter what the prize. Whatever you gain without earning is not worth having. And life is too short to kid yourself. So, follow your instincts, your gut, your heart or your head; wherever the sense of right and wrong lives in you. You may not get a medal, or your picture in the paper, or anything that can be seen, hear, felt or touched. But you will get the best reward of all… self-respect. And that is worth more than anything. From the standpoint of payoff, there is much to gain. Knowing that you have followed your own instincts and ethics, and kept your integrity, is payoff enough, but it also seems to me that rewards follow integrity in the long run. The alternate path of making questionable decisions based on what you get out of that particular situation may make you money, or get you the deal in the short run, but when you start to parcel out your integrity for short term gain, it inevitably leads to a reputation that will cost you deals in the future. And, worse than that, it will eventually cause you to wince when you look in the mirror. That is a price too high to pay for short term gain. It can be expensive to get caught up in the maelstrom of any antagonistic situation, and business is no exception. But nothing is more expensive than being a taker, rather than a leaver. Not familiar with the expression? Leave more than you take. Provide more positive energy than negative. Do the Right Thing. The reason for Doing The Right Thing, in business and in your personal life, is that it defines who you are. This is a good investment. This has significant ROI. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. (Peter F. Drucker, American Management Guru) So, then the question becomes: How do you know what the Right Thing is? The Bad News: It is a tough question. The Good News: You always have the answer. How can that be? Simple. The answer is not the same for everyone. Perspective, being what it is, is merely the view from where you stand (or sit, as the case may be). Everything about who you are, what you believe in, and how you got to where you are today, provides the knowledge to decide, in any given situation, what the right thing is. For you. In a world of where nothing seems to be black and white, there are defining points to any situation that allow you, if you allow yourself, to sit back, look at the situation, and know, instinctively, whether your decisions and actions are right or wrong. And, it is different for everyone. My choices would not, and should not, necessarily be the same as yours. We, each of us, have our own standards, our own beliefs, and our own set of circumstances that got us to where we are today; that define who we are, and what we do. That is the only proper basis for our decisions. Hold yourself to your own standards, set your own rules, and live by them. Again, this is good investment, with good ROI. Does it sound like I am on a soap box? Preaching from a high horse? I hope not. That is certainly not my intention. I own no real estate on high moral ground. I do not even rent space. I am only referring to what we all have, if we look, inside: Our own standards. Everyday, when you hit the job, you bring your own standards with you. What is good enough when it comes to quality, or service, or profitability? Ever decide to reject a job that the client did not find fault with? Ever put in some extra time or resources to make a print job better than required? Ever go the extra mile to deliver a job personally to a client to make their life easier? If you have, you did it because of your own standards, your own beliefs. That is not morality, it is reality. In making judgments, the Early Kings were perfect, because they made moral principles the starting point of all their undertakings and the root of everything that was beneficial. This principle, however, is something that persons of mediocre intellect never grasp. Not grasping it, they lack awareness, and lacking awareness, they pursue profit. But while they pursue profit, it is absolutely impossible for them to be certain of attaining it. (Lü B u-wei 246BC, Chinese Prime Minister under Emperor Ying Zheng) So, follow your instincts, your gut, your faith, your heart or your head; wherever the sense of right and wrong lives in you. You may not get a medal, or your picture in the paper, or anything that can be seen, hear, felt or touched. But you will get the best reward of all… self-respect. And, finally, since I am really into quotations today, a little blast from the past for those of you who involved in digital printing who have been told, at one point or another, that your product is not real printing or not good enough to be taken seriously: This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us. (Western Union internal memo, 1876) Good Luck, and Remember: If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It… Right? Here's your big chance to find out anything and everything, your turn at playing that age-old game, ‘Stump the Chump'. Address your questions to Doctor Printing at [email protected] . I will answer all questions received to the best of my highly-educated ability, and will post them next month, unless I don't like the questions, in which case I will make up my own, as I've done today. And, by the way, you can also contact me through the Ask Doctor Printing website at .