The role models around us

Sometimes, being a good role model is a good business decision, too.

Too often, our sons and daughters tend to look for role models in lofty places and many become disillusioned by the bad behavior some of them. Worse yet, some try to emulate that comportment.

The most admired people tend to be the teachers, neighbors, pastors and bosses who live in our home towns.

In 2013, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology and brain science professor at the University of Massachusetts, wrote in Psychology Today (PT): “Role models who uphold high ethical or moral values are typically not the people whose stories make it to the press or social media.

Penn State researchers Michael Brown and Linda Trevino investigated ways that managers can be perceived as decent humans and ethical leaders. “The individual must be seen as a moral person who is honest, trustworthy, caring about people, open to input, respectful and able to make principled decisions,” reported in PT magazine.

Brown and Trevino observed that when employees have ethical leaders, they like them better and behave in more positive ways.

In New Zealand, the Father&Child Trust found the lack of male role models exists more in the community than at home. “Fathers may be present at home in a nurturing and high quality fashion, but men are all but absent from the wider community.”

In high school, we were blessed to have legendary teacher and coach. Harry “Swede” Dahlberg’s teams won a number of state championships over his 40-year career, but everyone admired him as an ethical family man who believed in hard work, following the rules and honesty. There was a reason former students stop by Butte High School to visit him. They knew he cared.

In college, a professor had us visit the neighborhood Dairy Queen. She would say if you really wanted to see how a good family business works, go down the street for an ice cream cone.

Art Mandell grew up on dairy farm in southern Minnesota. He met his wife, Joann, in high school and they raised five children. His only prior experience with Dairy Queen was stopping for a soft ice cream cone while delivering milk around Faribault.

In 1961, the Mandell’s saw an ad listing a DQ in Missoula for $17,000. They took a risk, bought the business and moved their family to Montana—a state they had never seen.

“Art may not have known much about business, but he worked hard, made friends and hired neighborhood girls to help him run the stand,” Missoulian reporter Michael Moore wrote.

More than 1,000 young people are Mandell DQ alumni.

Today, there is Mandell Scholarship at the University of Montana. Students perform 120 hours of community service each academic year in exchange for tuition, fees and books.

Mandell practiced punctuality, good customer service and treating people well. His farm-learned ability to improvise paid off.

For example, one day the meat packer mistakenly sent him foot-long hot dogs. Rather than sending them back, he posted a sign advertising foot-long hot dogs in regular buns. Guess where Missoula’s hot dogs business went?

If one of the servers makes a mistake such as dipping a vanilla cone in chocolate rather than cherry coating, Art doesn’t throw it the trash, he put it in the freeze. They are called mistakes, and kids asking for mistakes get them free. His “mistake policy” has become so popular that he devised a “baby cone” that he would give children when there were no slipups available.

There are millions unsung role models in business today. They are generous people who work hard to make our communities better places. Hopefully, their good examples are still contagious among teens.

Don Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at TheBrunells@msn.com.

More in Business

Retrieving ocean trash is only the first step | Don Brunell

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is nearly the size of Alaska.

The inconvenient truth about batteries | Don Brunell

More than 86,000 tons of single-use alkaline batteries are thrown away each year.

Enumclaw Recyclers, The Use Again Store re-open on Garrett

The businesses have collected close to 1.3 million pounds of electronics for the E-Cycle Washington program over four years.

The darker side of renewable energy | Don Brunell

Renewable energy doesn’t automatically mean it’s clean, especially in how certain renewable energy products are made.

Oil giants betting on electric tech | Don Brunell

Making electric cars and new batteries for homes and power grids is a major step toward replacing carbon-based energy with electricity from renewables such as wind and solar.

Trade issues bring state Republicans, Democrats together

Washington is the third largest exporter of food and agricultural products in the nation.

California wildfires spark renewed debate over underground power lines | Don Brunell

Power lines could have caused the Camp wildfire in California.

Microsoft has expanded their AccountGuard service to 12 new European Countries. Yellow: European countries already protected. Blue: European countries now protected. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Microsoft warns of hacking ahead of elections

Launching defense services in Europe.

Those pesky tax incentives | Don Brunell

We need them to start big projects, no matter how much of a pain they may be in the future.

Praerit Garg joins Smartsheet as CTO

Bellevue-based company employs 760 people

In Buckley, more storage units on 410, beer and wine downtown

Wood, Wine, & Whimsy got their alcohol license Feb. 12.

Growing resistance to corporate incentives | Don Brunell

There is a growing backlash to corporations among liberals.