Essays are a great way to teach lessons. Right now, my eleven year old daughter … who I will simply call “Princess” … is at that age where almost everyday is an “Essay Day.” Last week, when caught in the middle of a lie—about an issue that was not even meaningful—my Princess was required to write an essay about INTEGRITY.  Despite the trend of repitition, she got most of it right:

Integrity means to be honest when no one is looking. If you have integrity you will have more privileges and trust and friends. If you have integrity your friends will trust you because they know you are trustworthy in all things and at all times. . . . If you have integrity, you are honest, trustworthy and you are a good friend to have especially when your friend needs help with an outfit choice.

A career in the construction industry, just like the legal industry, can be made or destroyed based upon your reputation. What if you are known as the contractor who cuts corners, is hard to communicate with, or is just plain difficult? What if you are the owner-developer who has a reputation for never approving changes or for always delaying on responses to requests for information? The fact is … your reputation will follow you.

Reputation, however, is not the only thing that should concern you. There are countless federal and state regulations and statutes that address (and sometimes require) ethical practices in contracting. Indeed, a 2007 Federal Acquisition Regulation amendment requires contractors receiving awards in excess of $5 million on a government contract adopt written codes of business ethics and conduct. Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. published a four-page guide for complying with this rule.

The point is … ethics and integrity should be part of our everyday lives … no matter where in the construction diagram you fall. And it should not be treated as a marketing trend. In the words of one eleven year old: “You should be honest even when no one is looking.”