My father used to say that the first job of the leader of any business is to guard the integrity of the corporation. Way too many businesses seem to have lost track of that important piece of wisdom.

General Motors has agreed to pay a $900 million fine to avoid being criminally charged for deliberately hiding information about a deadly safety defect that led to the deaths of 124 people.

Last month Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker, admitted to selling 11 million “clean diesel” Volkswagen and Audi cars with software intentionally designed to pass official emissions testing while emitting 10 to 40 times the legal exhaust emissions during normal driving. The automaker will now face billions of dollars in fines, class action lawsuits and possible criminal prosecution.

BCE Inc. (Bell Canada Enterprises), one of Canada’s largest corporations, has agreed to pay a $1.25 million penalty after some of its employees posed as customers and wrote deceptive online reviews touting Bell products and services.

And it isn’t just big companies that are doing sneaky stuff. Last month I was in a fudge shop in one of Canada’s most tourist-dependent towns, right on the American border. A sign on the counter advised that they offer a 10% exchange rate on US currency. The official exchange rate was 27% at the time. When I challenged the guy behind the counter about this, his reply was, “But we’re just a small business.” What the heck does that have to do with anything? A shop across the street offered 20% exchange, which makes a little more sense.

As business people, collectively, we’re in charge of ‘Brand Business’ and we’re not doing a good job of nurturing our Brand. More and more, young people are ‘turned off’ by business. They see us as greedy, deceitful and irresponsible. Many of them are working for incompetent bosses and they don’t want to be part of it. Either they’ll just show up at work and go through the motions or quit, go work for the government and vote socialist for the rest of their lives.

As business people we need to get our act together, play it straight and build trust. We need to engage and inspire people…especially young people. We need to adopt a simple philosophy in our business, “No games…no tricks…no lies.

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