Essays are a great way to teach lessons. In our house of seven children, it seems that almost every day is an “Essay Day.” Last week, when caught in the middle of a lie—about an issue that was not even important— one of my young Princesses was required to write an essay about INTEGRITY.

Click here to view image.

Take a look at what she wrote.  Despite the trend of repetition, the Princess did a great job:

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,  the Federal Acquisition Regulation requires contractors receiving awards in excess of $5 million on a government contract adopt written codes of business ethics and conduct.  The Associated General Contractors of America published a Five-Star Ethics and Compliance Program (pdf).

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.”