The North Texas Ethics Association (NTEA) has honored more than 40 local companies with the Greater Dallas Business Ethics Award (GDBEA) since its beginning in 2000. As the website says of the award: “These companies exemplify how ethics can be consciously integrated throughout an entire business.” Indeed, past winners are our community’s luminaries.
Two years ago I was their keynote speaker so I was delighted to be invited as a guest for this year’s award luncheon.
Business leader and philanthropist Craig Hall was this year’s speaker. He stressed that telling the truth is really not that complicated; being direct and transparent is good business practice. He spoke about the savings and loan crisis of the early 1980s and his own experience as a real estate developer during that time and how so many developers took shortcuts and went to prison as a result, perhaps somewhat enticed by the government encouraging financial institutions to be aggressive in their “loans” to developers.
He said that, if shortcuts are taken, you never know when this will come back to haunt you. Mr. Hall emphasized that ethics today are more important than ever because of the greed being displayed everywhere. He noted that we are always being tested and we need to ask ourselves often, are we taking the easy way or do we take a stand and do the right thing?
The NTEA is known for recognizing and celebrating companies that clearly demonstrate a “measurable commitment to ethical business practices in everyday operations, management philosophies and responses to crisis or challenges.” As Michael Webb, chairman of the award program says, “These companies are great examples of ethics at work. Their work reinforces the positive, ethical values of our local business community.”
They exemplify businesses operating under ethical principles and doing the right thing for their company and related stakeholders. NTEA has a rigorous nomination and qualification process and are to be commended for their efforts. It is no easy challenge.
This year two GDBEA honorees were named. La Madeleine Restaurants, being one and also one of my favorite places in town. La Madeleine also received the Cary M. Maguire Spirit of Ethics award, which recognizes honorees demonstrating and advocating above-and-beyond ethical practices and inspire higher levels of ethics excellence. The award is named after Dallas businessman, philanthropist and NTEA supporter, Cary McGuire, who personally embodies the qualities that define principled behavior personally, in business and public service.
John Cahill, President and Chief Operating Officer of la Madeleine, accepted the awards on their behalf, and spoke about the company’s culture. “To be celebrated for our culture of ethical excellence is an honor,” he said. “We are grateful to be acknowledged by the NTEA for our efforts. I am incredibly proud of our team who goes above and beyond every day to not only uphold the ethical culture at la Madeleine, but celebrate it and make it stronger.”
La Mad, as we fondly call it here in Dallas, is well known for its outstanding service and community involvement. Its receiving both awards was no surprise. La Madeleine’s French founder, Patrick Esquerré, shared with the audience: “The secret to la Madeleine’s commitment to ethics is that we operate as a family. The love and passion that comes with being a family is core to our culture and guides us in all that we do in our interactions with each other, our managers, associates and most importantly our guests. This has been true at la Madeleine since day one.”
What was a surprise and raised a few eyebrows was the second GDBEA honoree, AT&T.
David Huntley, the Senior Executive Vice President over compliance for AT&T, accepted the award and told us that all of their employees must take personal responsibility to uphold ethics. He noted they encourage ethical behavior and a commitment to excellence which has resulted in unprecedented growth.
The award more than raised eyebrows. Dave Lieber, with the Dallas Morning News, known as the Watchdog columnist, was at the luncheon as well and his headline and column two days later proclaimed, “Three hours after AT&T gets the ethics award, the company is tied to the Michael Cohen money mess.” The watchdog says: give it back!
The Friday after the luncheon, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told employees it was a mistake to hire Trump attorney Michael Cohen and ousted the telecom giant’s top Washington executive after his office paid Mr. Cohen $600,000 last year. “Our reputation has been damaged… There’s no other way to say it, AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake”
We all make mistakes. I question this one as being only that, a mistake.
Did they take the easy way? Perhaps this will cause the company to step back and ask if their culture really is one of ethical excellence. Is ethics truly at the core of their culture? It starts at the top, after all! Without that, people will raise eyebrows. Customers will cancel their service and walk elsewhere.
The la Madeleine’s of this world, irreplaceable. The culture that celebrates its people and their customers is obvious and a shining example many more could follow.
Additional Photos from the event…