One of the things that my father taught me was that your reputation was your most important asset. He taught me that the most important thing in life was to go to bed at night with the "knowingness" that you'd acted with integrity that day and every day. As important Dad taught me that you had to be able to look yourself in the mirror every morning and be proud of yourself.

I met a potential client the other day that inherited a legacy contract with a Web development company that actually held the copyright on their site. I was appalled as frankly I've never heard of such a thing. To make matters worse, this really dishonest developer had been charging enormous fees for the continued hosting and maintenance of a really terrible site that had been developed for the  client several years ago. And when I say terrible I really mean it; amateurish to begin with and vintage 1999. To my eyes the site had never once been updated. To make matters worse the client in this case is a non-profit that provides terrific and really necessary service to the community. They deserve much, much better.

It got me to thinking about people who are only out to make a quick buck or suck whatever value they can from others - those who take whatever they can without any intention of treating others fairly. Those who don't understand that every relationship in life or in business has to be based on "what's in it for us" to be meaningful and lasting.

I suspect that people who don't live like that don't really accomplish much in life. Sooner or later people that they deal with realize the truth about them, sweep them under the rug and go on with what they must do each day to make sure that they go to bed at night knowing that they will look themselves in the mirror the next morning knowing that they live in integrity.

For me, that's the only way I can live. While we all need money to live on when money becomes the sole object of your intention you can't possibly treat others fairly or create mutual value. You'll burn through relationships as quickly as others find out the truth. Sooner or later the law of Karma kicks in and "what goes around comes around". So I think the point is to live as if every relationship really counts. Make sure that in there is at least mutual value in every relationship and always try to give more than you take. Live like this and you won't be having to look over your shoulder all the time to see what's "coming around".

When I was a young man I established a business in South Korea. The Korean economy was just beginning to emerge, as was South Korean society from the devastation of the Korean War. I quickly built a business there and made many lasting friendships that exist to this day. I quickly learned the term "bad buyer". I distinguished myself because I struck fair deals, stuck to them and quickly earned a reputation, unlike much of my competition, as a "good buyer". I always considered the long-term and tried in all my dealings to create mutual value. And that's what I did.

Other people were doing all kinds of outrageous things. Some would come to Seoul, sweet-talk potential suppliers and stick the suppliers with their bills for food, lodging and entertainment while they had no intention of doing business with them. Others would work the suppliers to the bone to make samples for them that they would then take on to Taiwan or Hong Kong to have manufactured by other suppliers to simply avoid a sample making charge. I witnessed every shenanigan possible.

One day I was in my office when I received a phone call from one of my main suppliers. A buyer that I had been dealing with showed up at their office with some samples that I'd supplied to him and was asking the supplier to sell to him deal and sell him my designs directly. He misjudged them badly thinking (incorrectly) that if he paid them a little more that he could cut me out of the deal and buy directly from them. The sales manager of my supplier had showed this guy into one of their guest rooms, graciously offered him a cup of coffee, asked him to wait and called me to ask what they should do with him. I told them to have him wait. I jumped into the car and drove over to their office. Can you imagine his surprise when I walked in and told him that, in no uncertain terms, he was a loser and neither my supplier or I would have anything to do with him. A few weeks later I made a deal with his main competitor.

I prospered, and prospered well mainly for one reason - those suppliers trusted me because I always cut a fair deal and lived up to it. They knew that I had their backs covered and they covered mine because I always considered what was best for "us". By 1974 that supplier nominated me and I was awarded South Korea's award for contribution to their economy, a rare honor for a foreigner.

I don't mean to moralize here (although I hope you'll forgive me for doing so!). But many of my students are just beginning their careers and I think that Dad taught me some really important life-lessons.  I wanted to pass this one along.