From the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

The Lying Game
In "Liar, Liar" (October) by Joshua Kurlantzick, you say, "lying and dishonesty simply have become a much more accepted part of business-and of American life. To fight this trend and to inculcate the idea that dishonesty is unacceptable, companies, business schools and corporate leaders will need to undertake massive, systemic reforms."

Cultural beliefs and adaptations do not come down from the gods. They emerge over time, in Darwinistic fashion, shaped by the environment. Humanity has gone from tribal societies to villages and towns. We went through the industrial revolution, which generated the legal and financial revolutions and now the information revolution. The trouble is, the values of the last revolution no longer apply. In the past, there were not so many banks or lawyers or businessmen, and your reputation mattered. Now, in a society of 6 billion people, you can always find another sucker.

It is smart to lie. It is stupid to go through life trying to express the values of truth and honesty of the past. They were arbitrary adaptations anyway.

Of course, it is even smarter to block others from knowing you, to snoop, to find easy marks and to spot liars, and avoid being ripped off. Isn't that what the CRM revolution is about?

Now can you see why "corporate leaders" will never "undertake massive, systemic reforms"? Why should they? The entire society has become a nation of liars. It's the national sport.

Todd Boyle, CPA
Kirkland,
Washington

Kudos to you on this subject ("Liar, Liar"). I am glad someone had the guts to say something like that.

I left my position as director of business development in March of this year for that reason. My CEO made demands of me to lie at the eventual expense of a customer-just "get the sale," no matter "what stories" I had to tell to "get the order."

Needless to say, all he got was my resignation in a record five minutes, and now I'm starting my own business!

Ron Smith
Atlanta

I enjoyed your article "Liar, Liar" by Joshua Kurlantzick-it was enlightening. I am an avid believer that there is no such thing as "business ethics." This is the root issue here. There has been a perception that business ethics and personal ethics are two different things, and frankly, they are not. A leader's conscious decision to walk ethically has to begin in his or her personal life. The fact that most men and women lie to their
spouses, friends and children trickles into the corporate life. If they can get away with it with those they love, they can sure get away with it with the SEC.

Marc Garcia
President
Global Solutions/Higher Learning
Central Islip, New York

Thanks to Entrepreneur for featuring Joshua Kurlantzick's excellent article, "Liar, Liar." Giving prominence to articles like this is part of what will turn the tide back toward ethical business practices. And the other part? It works better! "Pocketbook" authority may convince, even when moral authority fails.

While researching my own book on ethical business, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First (AWM Books), I found over and over again that running a business with high ethics, an attitude of abundance, and a willingness to cooperate with competitors is a recipe for success. I also found that consumers have a great deal of influence, and that if consumers choose to make buying decisions on the basis of their own values, the good companies rise to the top very quickly.

In other words, [having] business ethics not only feels better, it works better. This is the message I bring in my book, my speaking, my Web sites and the Positive Power of Principled Profit newsletter. I invite your readers to subscribe to the newsletter, at no cost, by visiting www.principledprofits.com.

Shel Horowitz
Accurate Writing & More
Hadley, Massachusetts

I enjoyed the article "Liar, Liar." Until recently, I was working for a large company that had hired a "turnaround" CEO. While he and some of his team seemed to have ethics and integrity, the vast majority of the staff a couple of layers down did not have any ethics at all. They hid behind words like ethics, integrity and honesty, when all along it was about whom they could screw to get what they wanted. I have seen people at various levels of management lie and mislead people, all to make others look bad while trying to improve their own status within the company. Your article is a start, but it barely scratches the surface. If this type of behavior is not corrected, American businesses will self-destruct, because there will be no trust at all.

Darrell L. Hook
IT Consultant
Far Point Enterprises
Jeffersonville, Indiana

"Liar, Liar" is very disturbing and completely fatalistic. I have been witness on a very small scale to this for years now, and it doesn't get any easier hearing it from your magazine.

My son is about to enter this arena, having recently graduated college. He is
by nature very moral and honest. How will he ever survive?

Patricia Holmes
Owner
Fondant.com
Chicago

Now let's see if I have this straight. We have a corporate-governance problem at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which was caused by current and former CEOs being on the board of the NYSE and these people not doing their jobs. These board members allowed Mr. Grasso, a former chairman of the NYSE, to steal over $150 million while employed by that exchange. The fox guarding the chicken coop is not going to tell on his fellow foxes because he could hurt himself.

I am very concerned that when this corporate-governance problem is reported as solved, in fact, it will not be. You have to stop going to foxes for answers to your questions about missing chickens. These foxes are not going to tell you the truth, and we must face that fact before we go forward, or we will fail to resolve the problem. As a consequence of not solving the corporate-governance problem, stockholders, consumers, corporate employees, lenders and suppliers around the world will have to brace themselves for another onslaught of stolen investment dollars, lost corporate jobs, loss of consumer buying power, bankruptcies and other innocent businesses going under. The problem is total control of our corporations by people without good conscience and proper ethics who use their greed to fill their pockets with stolen corporate assets.

The only way I see for us to fix this problem is to put the oversight of managing corporations under the direct control of stockholders, and allow only stockholders to be members of boards of directors. Moreover, no current and/or former CEOs, law firm partners, college professors, acounting firm partners, ex-high government employees and/or their friends, family mem-bers and/or cro-nies may ever become the members of any board of directors. All these people are currently serving as consultants to corporations, and it's a conflict of interest to also serve as a direc-tor while you or your firm are giving or have given advice to corporations.

These people have stolen enough. Want to solve this problem? Well, you now have the answer to the problem. The little people have lost their life savings as well as their retirement monies because the control of our corporations is being put in the hands of a few people.

Stephen William Cooper Holbrook
Retired Supervisory Special
Agent Accountant, FBI
Via e-mail

Seek and Ye Shall Find
Rieva Lesonsky's "Word to the Wise" ("Editor's Note," August) is as wise a piece as has been written in terms of quick guidelines for life. I appreciate her wisdom.

Paul Petersen
President and Publisher
The Relationship Resource Group Inc.
Wheat Ridge, Colorado


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