Setting yourself above with strong business ethicsRyan FlorioMortgage Broker ethics I was having lunch with a friend last week, and he shared that he had just finished reading a book describing what it takes to be successful in "the post-boomer business era." He went on to explain that the author of this book conducted massive research focusing on the nouveau riche who had amassed their great fortune from personal business triumphs. The author was able to identify distinctive qualities possessed by the country's business leaders and went so far to say that, although he had no real evidence of my math skills, he felt that I represented this new and emerging skill set fairly well. Of course, this comment caught my attention and curiosity, so I went on to probe exactly what these qualities may be. I was prepared to stand up to my shortcomings, and I could feel myself tighten up to protect my shrinking ego before the blows started hitting hard. First, he mentioned the need to be technology savvy. Second is to have a high aptitude for math. The third quality reflects a high degree of creativity. The fourth skill defined an ability to be flexible and adapt in a changing marketplace. And while I was still contemplating whether my math skills were sufficient, he exposed the final and equally important quality: possessing a high degree of ethics in business. The fifth quality really struck me as ironic, and I inquired whether I had heard correctly. "Do you mean a high degree of business ethics or rather a lack of business ethics?" It seemed to me that the media glorifies those who possess an almost ruthless conviction to their business growth and that misbehaving is not only accepted, but expected in today's cutthroat business arena. My friend countered my doubt by affirming that strong ethics were imperative for longevity—overshadowing any temporary gains. I felt great relief to hear that my conservative values would not set me back in the race; actually, they could potentially set me apart. He went on to cite examples of high-profile business leaders who were indicted for criminal activity during the past five years, and who learned in the process that poor decisions had unfavorable consequences. It's no surprise that the public is expecting greater accountability and accepting zero tolerance for low-level behavior. Because of my work in the mortgage industry, my mind immediately turned to consider the recent history of the sub-prime market, which revealed unsavory business practices that took advantage of unassuming homeowners. We all know by now that this ultimately resulted in the collapse of the sub-prime market, and along with it, the closing of many mortgage firms and lending institutions. The strong focus of this failure has been, simply, the lack of ethics by mortgage professionals and, more specifically, lack of responsibility, respect and relationship with their clients. The imperative for those who survived the fallout is to examine these qualities and strengthen them. Responsibility conveys the relevance with which we handle our client's business transactions. Closing the deal is simply not enough in creating longevity and mastering our profession. We must become experts and educators in our field and lead our client's toward their personal goals. If we are operating solely from self-interest, it will be no surprise if our clients show disappointment with our services and dissatisfaction with the outcome. Respect is another important quality reflecting our work ethic. Respect for others stems from a core belief that all people are born equal and deserve the right to be treated fairly. This message is communicated in a variety of ways including the language we use in addressing our customers, how promptly we return phone or e-mail messages and whether or not we can honestly admit our mistakes to another. Ultimately, our degree of respect conveys that we find our client's time, energy and interest in our services extremely valuable. Finally, an attribute of ethics in business that encompasses all others is relationship. If we are to accept responsibility and offer respect, we can only do so in the context of relationships with our clients. By learning about them during the course of business transactions, we come to understand their priorities. And there is no other way to develop this than to take the time and get to know our clients. By becoming familiar with their unique business goals and calling them frequently, we position ourselves to continually service their changing needs. Remembering birthdays and special occasions is a surefire way to develop a unique bond that will grow steadily into a long-term business relationship. If time is lacking in your business schedule, outsource the development to customer loyalty programs that will guide you toward mastering the qualities of relationship-building. What would we do given the option to do what is right versus easily making more money? The answer lies in channeling your behavior into respect, responsibility and relationship with your clients. With steady maintenance of these qualities, we will embody the strength and wisdom to do what is right and easily make more money—achieving our greatest goals towards wealth and prosperity. Ryan Florio is president and CEO of Cleveland-based SpecialClient.com, a Web-based company that offers automated Client Relationship Programs as a vehicle for client retention and business development. He may be reached at (888) 863-6276 or e-mail [email protected].