The Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation has narrowed its list of applicants down to seven finalists for the 2019 Ethie Awards, with a diverse assemblage of local businesses and organizations eligible for the grand prize.
First established in 2003, the goal of the Ethie is to celebrate local businesses and organizations that have created and maintained strong ethical guidelines for their clients, employees and customers.
Here is a closer look at this year’s finalists.
John Betlem conditions employees to core values
One night in late January, when Rochester’s nighttime temperatures plunged painfully below zero, Tarek Siala’s home heating system quit working. With her young son asleep and his bedroom losing precious heat by the moment, Siala called John Betlem Heating and Cooling Inc. Technician Todd Cole arrived at 1 a.m. “Todd was very polite and quiet, since he recalled my young son from a prior visit. He was focused on doing a good job, rather than a fast job,” Siala recalled. Cole restored the heat, and Siala’s online review declared it a great experience.
When companies make concerted efforts to foster ethical cultures for their employees, they hire and retain people such as Todd Cole. Betlem is one of seven companies that are finalists for the 2019 Ethie Award, which will be conferred by the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation.
“We looked at our best sales technicians, our best sales people, our best installers and our best customer sales representatives, and we asked, what makes them great?” said Jim Betlem, residential manager and grandson of the company’s namesake. “And that’s how we came up with our core values—honesty, integrity, 100 percent satisfaction, positive attitude and willingness to get the job done.”
Traditional values drive Universal Imports
A family-run business founded in 1984, Universal Imports of Rochester Inc. specializes in the sales and service of pre-owned imported cars. “We taught all the children and grandchildren the same thing—how to respect all people, all the time, and that’s the way we grew,” said Astrid Fuerbacher, who founded the company with her husband Guenter on the front porch of their home.
Their son, Mark Fuerbacher, now is company president. “Because our technicians are not paid on commission, they can focus on what really matters—that is, proper car repairs and happy customers,” he said. “As our parents showed us, communication and honesty have kept us in business for 35 years, and they will keep us going for 35 more.” Fuerbacher added that there is no such thing as “not my job” at Universal Imports. Every staff member is cross-trained on how to handle customers and how to manage proper safety protocol. “Eyes wide open” is a phrase the company champions, and the result, they say, is a happy business, happy employees, and in turn, satisfied customers.
JN White switches on its ethics connections
Customer satisfaction takes many forms among the Ethie Award finalists. J.N. White Associates Inc., maker of membrane switches, graphic overlays and prime labels for a variety of industries, holds three company-wide meetings each year to discuss how employees have demonstrated ethical conduct.
“Ethics does mean having some backbone,” said Ken Boss, vice president of sales for JN White. “You truly have to understand what the customer is asking for and address it in a way that will be right for all parties involved.”
Exercising that backbone, JN White’s ethical approach has expanded to include ecological sustainability. For example, the company uses environmentally friendly UV ink, which cures when exposed to UV light. This replaced a solvent-based ink, which was lower in cost and easier to use, but was hostile to the environment and created large volumes of waste material. While first employing the new technology, JN White produced a set of labels, but about 10 percent of them didn’t turn out right. Rather than just replacing the failed units, JN White committed to re-manufacturing the entire order, which saved the customer the headache of unforeseen problems with their stock.
Randy White, president and CEO of JN White, sets the tone for the company’s approach. “We’re about doing the right thing and doing the right thing the first time,” he stated. “And when we make mistakes, and we sometimes do, then our core value says that we take lightning-quick action to fix it and come back afterwards to figure out how we can prevent that from happening again.”
Gorbel lifts up ethics inside and outside the company
Another manufacturer, Gorbel Inc., is a leader in overhead materials handling, ergonomic lifting and industrial fall protection. The company differentiates itself in part by adhering to a set of foundational values—integrity, positive people in a positive environment, extraordinary customer experience and being future-oriented. In fact, Gorbel has incorporated those values into its performance management system, which is a year-round employee feedback and coaching process that drives performance and reinforces the company’s ethics and values. The system’s three sections—business results, core values and business improvements—are weighted so that employees understand that behavior is just as important as results.
Gorbel sells through dealer channels and hosts dealers dinners, during which some guests have behaved inappropriately. Gorbel upholds high standards for employees, but at such times, company officials have been forced to ask themselves, what do you do when it’s your customer who is behaving poorly? Facing the choice of looking the other way to preserve the business relationship or taking a stand and calling out the behavior based on Gorbel’s core value of integrity, officials chose to talk privately with the customers about their disrespect and ask them to stop. It’s not the easy way out, but it keeps Gorbel’s foundational values alive and well.
“Ethics are at the core of our values in how every employee is expected to behave both internally and externally,” said Tyler Brown, vice president of operations at Gorbel. “Whether you are a welder or a senior leader, we expect and hold each other accountable to role model our core values.”
Another way that Gorbel reinforces its ethical culture is its Gravity Defy-er program, which is a peer-recognition system that enables employees to recognize each another when they go above and beyond to live out the company’s foundational values. The company celebrates Gravity Defy-er award recipients in multiple ways, including recognition at team meetings and in company information vehicles, such as newsletters and on screens mounted in common areas.
CP Rochester serves community members in many ways
When the Golisano Autism Center opened its doors in September, it consolidated services under one roof to help more than 10,000 local individuals and families impacted by autism, and Mary Walsh Boatfield, president/CEO of CP Rochester led the effort, partnering with the Al Sigl Community of Agencies and AutismUp. CP Rochester supports individuals of all ages and abilities to determine their own pathway in life, partnering with the individual, their family, and the community to fulfill the individual’s right to live a productive and rewarding life.
CP Rochester employees consistently build an ethical culture by working with individuals to be responsible community citizens. In fact, individuals residing in several CP Rochester residences have formed Kiwanis Aktion Clubs that support the Kiwanis mission to help kids around the world, by volunteering at Kiwanis events and conducting fundraisers of their own, making, then donating, proceeds to charities such as Golisano Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. Staff accompany and support Day Habilitation participants in regularly volunteering in the community at the Red Cross, ABVI-Goodwill, Meals on Wheels, Mount Hope Cemetery, Seneca Park Zoo, and other community-based organizations.
Throughout the year, CP Rochester staff members bring the needs of struggling families to the attention of the organization’s manager of volunteer services, who works with staff to determine each family’s specific needs—such as food, clothing and household items—and develops a family-specific needs list. Primarily during the holidays, but throughout the year as the need arises, agency departments adopt families and provide items on the needs list. The generosity of CP Rochester staff invariably provides more than the minimum required.
Genevieve Palermo, an outpatient clinic aide at CP Rochester, expressed her appreciation for the organization’s approach. “I definitely think my ethics have evolved since I’ve been at CP Rochester,” said Palermo. “I love helping people, I love making a difference in peoples’ lives, and I love being able to watch people grow.”
Excellus ensures a healthy workplace culture
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members, with a mission to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high quality, affordable health care.
The organization has created a strategy to achieve its long-term goals and defined values and behaviors that are integral to its success. These values and behaviors, The Lifetime Way, are integrated into Excellus’ mission, vision, performance appraisals, goal planning, and daily work.
To put their vision into action, Excellus leaders start meetings with a Lifetime Way minute, which provides opportunities for attendees to recognize someone who has exhibited Lifetime Way behaviors and values.
What’s more, Excellus has zero tolerance for retaliation, and throughout the year promotes a speak-up culture using a multimedia approach to better engage and educate employees.
Each year, Excellus provides employees with ways to give back to the community by offering eight hours of paid time to volunteer with organizations or events of their choosing. Employees have used this time at school or day care activities, and they have brightened the community by gardening, painting, or lending a hand in projects throughout the Rochester area at the annual United Way Day of Caring.
“Ethics means doing what’s right and making good choices every single day,” said Lisa White, Excellus BCBS chief risk and compliance officer. “In our organization, it’s more than being compliant with laws and regulations, it’s going above and beyond to be good community partners and truly caring for those we serve.”
Faraci Lange advocates for high moral conduct
Attorneys at Faraci Lange LLP, which was founded in 1968, have expertise in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice and products liability. The firm has 11 attorneys listed in the prestigious Best Lawyers in America directory under personal injury law and 12 attorneys in the Upstate NY Super Lawyers directory. Faraci Lange is also listed on Martindale Hubbell’s List of America’s Preeminent Law Firms with six of its attorneys having received the AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating awarded to attorneys with the highest ethical standards and professional ability.
The firm still adheres to the operational principles laid out by founder Angelo Faraci, whose values, ethical standards and moral conduct are infused in the firm’s core values. Those values govern how Faraci Lange attorneys practice law every day, with a focus always on what is best for the client, practicing at the highest ethical standards, and never taking shortcuts, regardless on the size of the case. There is no such thing as a small case for Faraci Lange, because, for the client, it is likely their only case and it deserves the same focus and attention as any other case, regardless of its financial value.
“I think that especially in our line of work, which is a much-maligned business, there are a lot of people who do not adhere to the highest ethical practices,” said Stephen Schwarz, managing partner at Faraci Lange. “From our standpoint, the fact that we are being recognized for this in the business that we’re in, is really an important statement about who we are, what we do and how we choose to do it.”
The Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation will recognize all seven Ethie Award finalists and announce the Ethie Award recipient on Monday, Oct. 7, at Geva Theatre Centre. Register to attend at www.rochesterbusinessethics.com.