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Character Still Counts in the Construction Industry

The following article originally appeared in the July newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

We often use the positive statement when referring to a person we admire “he/she has good character,” meaning they consistently act with integrity and high ethical standards.  It has been my observation, over 32 privileged years of working with contractors, most people, especially those attracted to the construction industry, strive to build a reputation for having good character, and to do business only with others that have the same.

However, I think the question can be legitimately raised, whether having “good character” is something we still value in political leaders, especially in candidates for the highest office in the land.  Predicated on the two presumptive nominees for the parties, it appears we may be relaxing the character standard substantially.  That last statement is certainly opinionated and judgmental on my part, but remember, I am used to watching contractors do business, as companies and as individuals, and the vast majority of the time, I have seen fairness and a sense of doing the right thing pervade their dealings.

Let me share some contrasting examples to what we have learned about the nominees.  One has declared bankruptcy on four occasions, a strategy heralded as shrewd by many of his most adamant supporters.  On three occasions, I am personally aware of contractors who were told by their attorneys their only course of action was to declare bankruptcy and walk away.  In every one of these cases, the three contractors rejected this convenient legal option, and opted instead to make arrangements, often over many years, to pay their obligation.  Some did so by liquidating personal assets as well.

The other candidate, having already declared she would seek the highest office in our land, defied the crucial security obligations about correspondence for her then prestigious and profiled position with a primary Federal Agency.  These actions are inexplicable for an accomplished person, who knew well the requirements of serving in that office, except out of arrogance or a sense of entitlement.  Contractors, in stark comparison, not only honor their contractual obligations, they also are fair on the many things that can’t be written down!

We used to hold political leaders in high regard.  Maybe we can’t this year.  But, we can turn to our fellow contactors, see people of good character, and say proudly that character still counts in the construction industry.