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Ethics is crucial at D4 LLC, which provides electronic discovery, computer forensics and litigation support services to Am Law 200 firms and Fortune 1000 companies.
"The nature of our business is that we have to be sensitive to privacy and confidentiality," CEO John Holland said. "We deal with client data all the time."
D4 was two companies at one point. DocuLegal and D4, which merged in 1998, were sold in 2008 and bought back later that year.
"For me, ethics plays a very large role-a variety of roles," Holland said. "First and foremost, in building a successful business, ethics gives you the opportunity to attract and retain good employees and loyal customers."
An ethical foundation also "creates a great place to work. People perform better when treated with respect," he said.
"We do publicize our values, but I feel we have to demonstrate every day what we stand for. Our values in action equal our company character."
D4 training and communications are consistent with company character, Holland said.
"For instance, we created the position of director of vision, mission and character development. Our values are posted, but we say they are in what we do and how we act, from the initial process onward."
D4 employees are seen as family members and are expected to adhere to a shared ethical standard. Management leads the way, Holland said, by "walking the talk. But there's a bigger picture: We're not driven totally by profit, and it shows. All of our employees are trying to create something more than just doing things at any cost. It's all related."
Holland is enthusiastic about expanding the company. D4 has hired 45 people so far this year. "We have an aggressive plan for the future," he said. "We recently added a national sales team, and new products and strategic purchases average two a year."
Martino Flynn LLC
Martino Flynn could not survive without a strong ethical base, said partner Raymond Martino. The firm works in advertising, public relations and digital media. Fifty-three people work at its office in Pittsford.
"Ethics are very important in any industry, but ours in particular," he said. "We're a service firm; we're privy to confidential information and issues that are sensitive. It's important that our clients trust us. We're in the relationship business, so our reputation is everything."
Martino had his own PR firm and merged with the Flynn Agency in 1997. The company now is a limited liability partnership with three equal partners: Martino, Christopher Flynn and Kevin Flynn.
The agency's five-year plan is to "grow by 12 to 15 percent a year and double our size in five years, to at least 90 employees," Martino said. Driving that growth is a handbook for employees with a nine-page section on ethical behavior, fairness in hiring, confidentiality and more. "We expect all employees to maintain the highest standard of behavior," he said. "It's an important part of our culture."
Employees sign non-disclosure agreements and non-compete statements. At least once a year, Martino Flynn holds a meeting to go over company policies, but "I like to think that we live (our ethical code) every day and it is implicit," Martino said. "We emphasize our ethics all the time. Our approach is consistent in word and deed. If there are any questions, we clarify. We go through the policy whenever it pertains to a client or project. Our employees can go to the partners (with any questions)."
The company's ethical stance is transparent; a manifesto setting out company principles is available to the public and prospective clients through a website link.
"We could compromise, but we just don't," Martino said. "It's basically all about communication, making our clients feel comfortable."
Optimation Technology Inc.
"Ethics fit perfectly into our company," said Bill Pollock, president and CEO, who founded Optimation in 1985. "We have a culture that requires people to function at a high standard. We set the expectation early. Clients trust Optimation with sensitive and confidential information about their business and processes on a regular basis."
Optimation provides engineering and skilled trades services for industrial applications. It employs 350 people in 11 locations around the country, and Pollock anticipates growth through more acquisitions and hiring. He calls it Optimation's success mantra.
"We look for companies where two plus two equals five-where we could add to services or products," he said.
Optimation employees sign off on a code of honor in the employee manual when hired, Pollock said, but "we look for integrity in the initial interview." It does not take long to find out if that quality is lacking, he said.
Ethics "permeates the way we do business, both for employees and for clients and partners," he said. "We regularly communicate professionalism and reward employees for their ethical and good work. Clients are surveyed on a monthly basis to get feedback about Optimation's project work. As a service organization, we wouldn't be considered a preferred supplier if we did not consistently provide superior services with a high value on professionalism and ethics."
Another piece of the Optimation ethics commitment is a quality system through which employee-client interactions are monitored. It is grounded in ethical factors such as charging fairly and providing good service quality. And employees are trusted to report their time on projects accurately.
The firm also aims to be "client-centric and family-focused" with an on-site day- care center and flex time, Pollock said.
"We make it possible for our employees to live healthy lives. We tie it all together with a moral code."
Showing the way is key to the success of the company's ethical stance. "I like to think that I am ethical always-I set an example," Pollock said. That matters because "you attract the type of people you represent. All you have is your reputation."
Rochester Rotary Club
Rotarians use a four-part test to guide their behavior, said Tracey Dreisbach, executive director of the Rochester Rotary Club.
"Rotarians abide by the 'four-way test' in their business relationships and personal relationships," she said. "Is it the truth? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?"
The Rotary International affiliate owns and operates the Sunshine Campus, a residential camp that serves more than 2,500 children and young adults with special needs. It is the first non-profit finalist for an Ethie Award.
"I think Rotary is unique," Dreisbach said. "If asked, Rotarians across the world would know and abide by the four-way test. Non-professionals abide by it even if it isn't spelled out. We would hope that all would follow it."
New Rotarians receive a copy of the test on a card when they join, and it is re-emphasized at meetings, Dreisbach said. All employees function by it. For Rochester Rotary's more than 100 seasonal employees, who work with a vulnerable population, it is especially important, she said.
As representatives of Rotary in the community, Dreisbach, staffers and club members must put those principles into practice in a visible way.
"Being out there in the community as representatives of Rotary, we are practicing the four-way test," Dreisbach said. The organization's 90-year history of providing resources proves its commitment to those principles, she added.
Even the Sunshine Campus' role in the lives of campers' parents and grandparents has an ethical component by providing a respite from the demands of caring for disabled children, Dreisbach said.
"We believe in this. We have stood behind the Sunshine Campus time and time again."
Saelig Co. Inc.
Doing business ethically is as simple as the Golden Rule, says Saelig Co. Inc. founder Alan Lowne.
Lowne started the firm as a part-time venture in 1988. The company employs 14 people as a distributor for test and measurement and control products from more than 100 suppliers worldwide. The company also provides marketing promotion, technical advice, sales fulfillment from stock and after-sales support.
When he started the firm, Lowne was an electronics engineer in clinical products at the Kodak Research Labs and was prescient enough to see what the beginning of layoffs might mean to his future. He had come to Rochester after working for Kodak in England and has been here 33 years.
During the day, an answering service took Saelig calls and a MailBoxes Etc. branch took faxes. "I did the rest of the business into the late hours in a dedicated Saelig Company bedroom," Lowne recalled.
The company has a history of "steady, not dramatic, growth," he said. "We have expansion plans in the works that depend in part on the needs of our suppliers."
At Saelig, "business ethics are fundamental to our company's ethos," Lowne said. Those ethics are based on biblical principles, such as the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you," and an Old Testament proverb, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth, good favor more than silver or gold."
"We are also fundamentally guided by our company name," Lowne said. "'Saelig' is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning 'happy, prosperous and blessed,' which is what I want for employees, suppliers and customers alike."
Those principles fill a large part-18 paragraphs-of the company's employee handbook, Lowne said. "We regularly hold staff meetings at which our principles are evident during discussions of 'doing the right thing, even if not to our financial advantage.'" Issues that arise serve as opportunities to put beliefs into practice.
"When overseas customers ask us to declare false values to reduce import taxes, we graciously refuse," Lowne said. "When a customer makes a mistake in our favor on a purchase order, we inform them and correct it. For instance, we had a recent government purchase order that included $870 for overseas shipping instead of $87, and we let them know.
"When a university could not get a $7,000 piece of equipment to work and the U.K. supplier would not take a refund, we 'ate' the refund as a goodwill gesture, keeping our good name and reputation intact."
Zaretsky and Associates Inc.
"Business ethics and corporate social responsibility touch every aspect of our operations," said Bruce Zaretsky, landscape designer and president of Zaretsky and Associates Inc. Vice President Sharon Coates is a landscape designer and glass artist.
Even their titles reflect their commitment to ethics: "We tend to use the title of landscape designer because that is what we do. Part of business ethics to us is not to hide behind titles that seem vague," Coates said.
The company has a code of ethics in its employee handbook and discusses real-world situations in frequent meetings as they arise. Company leadership communicates expectations to employees verbally, by example and through the handbook, and sees communication with clients and vendors as essential, including providing written installation guidelines and schedule summaries for projects. "The bottom line is integrity," Zaretsky said.
The Zaretsky code includes a "circle of good work: service delivered on time; happy people (employees, clients and vendors); happy planet and community (leave things better than you find them)."
In action, this means the company pays living wages to its 10 employees and provides generous benefits. It pays vendors on time and acknowledges their contributions to the company with appreciation awards. It gives clients "top-notch work and great service, at a fair price," Zaretsky said. It shares information and resources with colleagues, and it gives back to the community.
For example, the company recycles materials removed from project sites and has co-founded Project Scion, a volunteer effort that brings gardens and art to struggling city neighborhoods.
"The contracting business is full of bad reputations for taking people's money and not doing the work," Zaretsky said. "We're trying to show people in our business how to do business ethics. We really do have a high sense of ethics; I think most of us do. Most people in contracting are great craftspeople but not always good businesspeople. With a little diligence, I feel they can run an ethical business."
Zaretsky and Coates have no plans to expand, seeing small size as an advantage. "We're happy with the size of the company because we can do art, our staff are craftsmen, (and) we're in touch with our clients and the community."
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
9/6/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.