So let’s say your client is a sponsor of a local professional sports team, the one that just won a championship. Let’s call them the Vapids. And let’s say that your client and the Vapids entered a multi-year agreement just a year ago. The agreement was based on the understanding that your client was the official “marketing partner” in their category. That’s when the Vapids used words like “partner” and “partnership” and “long-term relationship.”

Then they won a championship and the team replaced its marketing department with a new group of slick talking suits. That’s when things changed. Instead of “partnership,” the slick talking suits began using words like “it’s just business” to explain that they went behind your back to a competitor and signed the competitor to a bigger deal without having the courtesy to let you know about it first.

The ethical approach would have been to call you and say, “We’ve been approached by one of your competitors, how do you feel about that?” Instead, they informed you after the fact in an email because they didn’t have the decency to discuss it with you face to face.

Now I am far from naïve. I’ve worked for professional sports teams. I know that the business of sports is not always ethical. But the lack of ethics demonstrated by the Vapids was so galling because the foundation of my client’s business is based on one simple value: integrity. It is the essence of their brand and the strength of their relationships. It may sound old fashioned, but things like your word and your handshake are still important to my client. They understand that empty promises are bad for business and that trust is as important as profits.

Slick sales talk may impress some people, but it takes substance and character to sustain a strong reputation. Once people look behind the curtain you better have something they can count on. Otherwise you are just a fake wizard in a nice suit, as worthless and phony as a ponzi scheme.    

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