Day 3 of ELW 2013 focused on leading a company and handling “ethical pitfalls”. Led by Tom Patton ’86, President and CEO of CASMED, and Carolyn Risoli ’86, former president of Marc by Marc Jacobs and current principal at CRisoli Consulting, the student teams spent the day reading real case studies that the executives had written and debating among themselves what the ethical questions were and how they should be decided.
The afternoon was particularly interesting as the students had to read a number of brief scenarios and then respond with how they would have acted. Tom and Carolyn started by posing the question of: If you take a company pen home from work, is that stealing? What about 5 pens? 10? A box? Your desk chair? The students quickly realized how tricky business ethics can become as most of them thought that taking a pen wasn’t necessarily stealing but saw their logic unravel as Tom challenged them to thinking about larger items. Another similar scenario dealt with the question of business reimbursements: If your company gives you a $7 cab ride home if you work until after 7 o’clock, is it ok to take that cab ride to a restaurant rather than home? What about going out with your friends and then getting the cab? The debate was lively, with lots of different points of view expressed, and Tom and Carolyn were able to weigh in with how they’ve actually navigated these situations in their roles as executives.
In addition to addressing business ethics, Tom and Carolyn talked to the students about the importance of being careful in business and how quickly things can change. Tom offered the advice that you need to be sure to live within your means, and be financially careful, because as quickly as things can get good, they can take a turn for the worse. Citing examples of young business people he knew, he cautioned the students against falling into the trap of wanting the biggest house and the flashiest car. “The BMW can wait until later,” he said.
The other big message of the day? Tom and Carolyn talked about how it’s easy to be ethical when things are good. What’s important is making sure to remain ethical even when it’s challenging to do so. They encouraged the students to think about two things: first, would you want to see your actions reported in the New York Times? And, second, would you be proud to tell the person you most admire – spouse, child, parent, friend, etc – about what you did? If you’re not comfortable with both, they said, you need to re-think what you’re doing.
Overall, another really interesting day and one that got the students thinking more about what to do when things aren’t going well and how important it is for a leader to be steadfast in what he or she believes is right!
Tonight the students are off to Boston for the HC Alumni Entrepreneur Group’s Networking Session. All of the students in ELW have been challenged to meet at least two new people tonight, so we’ll see how they do…
Associate Director, Entrepreneurial Studies