It’s Only Common Sense: Have Courage to Do the Right Thing

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They say that courage is the number one quality found in all successful companies. It takes courage to get anything done because it is a big, scary world out there and if you don’t have the guts—the courage—to face it, you will not survive.

The more I work with companies, the more I realize that all this talk about having courage and not being afraid to do the right thing when it needs to be done is true. Many managers will do anything to avoid doing the right thing, whether it’s In hiring, reprimanding, or even firing someone.

The best run companies are run by managers who are not afraid do what they need to do. Conversely, poorly run companies are managed by people who could not make a decision if their lives depended on it. They procrastinate until it’s too late, suffering from analysis paralysis, and they fool themselves into thinking that that’s actually doing something.

Great managers act. Great managers are not afraid of anything. They are not afraid to:

  • Get involved in new technology, even if buying the equipment is risky.
  • Hire that new process engineer, even if he is very expensive.
  • Have a hard talk with someone who is not doing his job.
  • Change the direction of the company.
  • Learn new things.
  • Change their minds.
  • Fire someone.
  • Act in the best interests of their customers, even if it hurts the company.
  • Put the customer first, whatever it takes.
  • Admit he was wrong.
  • Build that addition to the facility.
  • Handle cash flow issues head-on.
  • Say no, even when it’s hard.
  • Make difficult decisions.
  • Stand up against conventional wisdom.
  • Face his own flaws and fix them.
  • Hire people smarter than he is.

Years ago, I was working with a company that had cornered the market on fabricating high-tech PCBs from a material called LMR Kevlar because they were literally the only shop in the industry that had managed to build MLBs with this very quirky laminate. Every year for five years, we could count on at least $3 million of business from two milaero OEM customers. Our relationship with them was very good and the business was just about guaranteed.

Then one day, we were faced with a very difficult decision. We had been working with several laminate suppliers and had helped them develop a new product called Thermount. This Thermount material had all of the characteristics of LMR Kevlar, but it was much easier to work with and was only a quarter the price. This meant that just about any good board shop could now build boards that needed LMR Kevlar; we would lose our edge over our competitors, plus the price of the overall program would go down because the material was now much less expensive.

We asked ourselves, “So, what do we do? Do we tell our customers about Thermount and stand a chance of losing the business? Or, best-case scenario, keep the business at much lower price, or do we just stay mum about it?”

In this case, the best thing, and the right thing to do as good vendors and good people, was to tell our customers about this better solution. It was an easy decision, but a hard pill to swallow in the end. And yes, they used LMR Kevlar for only one more year and then switched to Thermount, which of course opened the program up to a much more competitive environment. We ended up losing the program a couple of years later.

But telling them was the right thing to do and we were not afraid to do it. It did take courage to face the fact that we were going to hurt our sales by a few million dollars of very profitable business a year. Now, looking back on this incident over 20 years later, I’m proud that we made that decision.

Never be afraid to do the right thing; even though it may hurt, it will pay off in the end. By the way, even though we lost that program, we did have a good ongoing relationship with those customers for years to come.

It’s only common sense.



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