By Harvey Mackay

Introductory Chemistry at Duke University has been taught for about a zillion years by Professor Bonk and his course is known affectionately as “Bonkistry.”

One year, two guys were taking Chemistry and doing pretty well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs. They were each getting a solid “A” going into the final exam. They were so confident that the weekend before finals they decided to go up to the University of Virginia to party with some friends. Due to bad hangovers, they overslept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final then, they explained to Professor Bonk that they had driven up to the University of Virginia for the weekend and had planned to come back in time to study but they had a flat tire on the way back and didn’t have a spare, so they didn’t get back to campus until late Sunday night.

Professor Bonk thought this over and then agreed that they could make up the final on the following day. The two guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day. Professor Bonk placed them in separate rooms, handed each of them a test booklet, looked at his watch and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, which was something simple about molarity and solutions and was worth 5 points.

“Cool,” each of them thought. “This is going to be easy.” They did that problem and then turned the page. They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on the next page. It said: Which tire? (95 points)

As the father of three children, one of my rules — especially when they became teenagers — was to tell me the truth immediately. I insisted David, Mimi and Jojo tell me the truth about anything bad they had done or were a part of. And I had to know right away — not a day or week later. If not, they would pay severe consequences.

That philosophy seemed to work for me, and quite frankly, I’ve always believed that telling the truth is the best policy.In business, it’s a must.

A few years back, the Forum Corporation of Boston, Mass., studied 341 salespeople from 11 different companies in five different industries. Their purpose was to determine what separated the top producers from the average producers. When the study was finished, the results were startling. It was not skill, knowledge or charisma that divided the pack. The difference came down to one trait: honesty. When customers trust the salespeople, they buy from them.

At Mackay Envelope Corporation, we don’t tolerate anything less than honest negotiations and delivery guarantees. An envelope is a very standard commodity. Sure, the paper, the glue, and the size can vary. The end product can probably be duplicated by a hundred companies. But nobody can match us day in day out, job after job, envelope after envelope, smile after smile. Our customers know we’ll do what we promise. They’ve even occasionally forgiven us for an honest mistake because they know we’ll make good on our word.

We also don’t do business with vendors who are less than upfront. It could eventually affect how we deliver to our customers, and we don’t like to lose customers. Our sales force wouldn’t stick around for long if we made their job harder. Can you blame them?

Telling the truth is not always a trait we associate with politicians in our country, and the recent events in Washington is a perfect example of what happens when the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is in question. We all have our own opinions of what has happened, but how would you like to be remembered as the president that 80 percent of the population didn’t trust? You may be able to keep your job in politics with those numbers, but I can’t think of another profession where you’d have the same result.

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