Integrity Of Many Shines Brighter Than Misdeeds Of Few

June 28, 2002
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Enron and Arthur Andersen, ImClone and Martha Stewart, Merrill Lynch, Tyco, and now MCI WorldCom: The impact of flat-out corporate lies is profound. Beyond the Securities and Exchange Commission tasks, a handful of felonious individuals have had a far more enormous impact in homes across America, one measure of which might be reflected in last week’s poor showing of consumer confidence. (Add to that results from a survey by Opinion Research Corp. International for AmeriDebt released last week, showing Americans are less likely to travel this summer and fall because of concern about the economy and joblessness.) Worse, these times are especially troubling for CEOs who have given great care to the integrity of their company, invested in that belief and likely took the longer road to assure the bottom line is unequivocally correct.

The international headlines of the past few months have a ripple effect into the offices of local businesses, especially during difficult times requiring layoffs and mergers which may or may not be understood by community members. Even as private companies dominate West Michigan, the aftershock is likely to be front and center for owners and CEOs.

Grand Rapids Business Journal just two weeks ago co-sponsored the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards, giving a public spotlight to the accomplishments of individuals in this community. We are well aware of the enormous courage and determination it takes to build such businesses, and the stories of “how” filled the pages of the June 17 and June 24 issues of Grand Rapids Business Journal. It is appropriate to quote CPR founder Jerry Engle, who accepted the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the technology category. From his well-deserved spotlight on the stage, Engle in effect prayed aloud that people would not paint all business with the same brush but discern the difference between the vast majority of companies that are built upon a foundation of integrity. Further, and most important, is that individuals see and believe in the opportunity of becoming entrepreneurs.

The greater metro area is considered one of the top five regions in the U.S. for entrepreneurs, and those individuals have given considerable strength and diversity to this regional economy. The specter of this also is noted in a letter to the editor this week, from Mercantile Bank Corp., a finalist for the Entrepreneur Award in Business and Financial Services. Chairman Gerald Johnson wrote, “Each finalist represented a commitment to excellence in business and possessed the courage and willingness to take great personal financial risk…”

Grand Rapids Business Journal is proud of the community on which it has reported and recorded growth these past 20 years, and looks forward to the stories of the youngsters among us who should continue to be encouraged to take their dreams and build a business.

The unconscionable double dealing by a few cannot be allowed to suppress the rest. As Engle and Johnson observed before the MCI headlines were printed, the accomplishments of business owners far, far outweigh the cheats who should be dealt the sternest of punishments.           

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