FEATURED | Business

Let Me Tell You a Story about Corporate Ethics

I was low-bidder on a very large contract for work on a project for the Marriott Corporation near O’Hare Airport in Chicago. This was decades ago, but it taught,me a lesson I’ve never forgotten about corporate ethics.

You may be surprised by my experience

I got the usual call, that I was among the low bidders and they would like to discuss the project further with me. In my experience, that meant the meeting would evolve around my willingness to drop off a few tens of thousands to match an unnamed competitor and secure the contract.

Not so. Not even close.

When I arrived, the project manager advised me that I had already won the bid and his responsibility was to see that I was financially okay with my price. “Marriott,” he told me, “does not want any contractor to lose money on their work.” I replied that I was fine with my pricing and he went on to explain what Marriott expected, as this was my first time working with them.

The deal

Their construction scheduling was always very tight on all their projects, he explained, but particularly so on this one because it was in the flight pattern of O’Hare Airport and my particular work employed helicopter deliveries to an inner courtyard, along with coordination with FAA officials. I replied that we had that priced in.

We will keep you apprised of lead times, but you will be expected to honor starting and completion dates, precisely and without exception. For our part, you will be expected to present an invoice by the 3rd of each month for work completed and full payment will arrive in your bank account within three business days.”

And that is exactly what happened.

The aftermath—in business, there is always an aftermath

When the project was completed, the punch-list items attended to and the grand opening of the property scheduled, we contractors were called upon once more.

Marriott explained that it was fine-tuning its kitchens, chefs, and special occasion facilities. In accordance with that (or perhaps as an excuse), we were invited to a pre-opening event in the main dining areas; a smorgasbord, if you will. More impressively, we were specifically asked to bring every worker that had contributed to the project, including their families.

It was an impressive festivity, with tables laden with lobster, salmon and shrimp, roasts of beef, tureens of soup, pastas, dozens of salads, wines, soft drinks and desserts beyond compare. My laborers were predominantly Mexican and turned up beautifully dressed, their children in brightly colored dresses and jackets. You can tell a great deal about the ethics (if that’s even a proper description) of an international company that considers its construction cadre as family.

Even so, there is no lesson to be learned here.

A company the size of Marriott either has such compassion or it doesn’t. But I will tell you this; having once worked for Marriott, contractors beg to be asked again. The prices they get and the care that goes into performance are legend in the construction community.

You can’t write that out on your stationery but, when push comes to shove, you don’t really need to.