It’s not just about business anymore. It’s about doing business ethically and honorably.
And Junior Achievement, a nonprofit organization that inspires and sparks the entrepreneurial spirit in the country’s youths, is working to promote ethical business practices as well. The organization polled 624 teens between the ages of 13 and 18, and the results were alarming: 33 percent said they would act unethically to get ahead or to make more money if there were no chance of getting caught.
That’s why JA is partnering with accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to promote business ethics among young people, starting with elementary school students. It also promotes business ethics by providing role models — its annual Hall of Fame honorees.
This year’s laureates are business leaders who not only demonstrate business savvy, but also how running a business ethically can lead to success. They have overcome obstacles and challenges to succeed in tough, competitive industries, and are true role models for the region’s young people.
Founder and executive chairman
Jim Grote discovered that the pizza business was in his blood while working part-time at one pizza shop, then another, in high school and in college.
His hard work, diligence and enjoyment of the job inspired the owners of both shops to offer him first dibs on the stores when they decided to sell. In the first instance, Grote’s father persuaded him to pursue his education instead.
But he couldn’t pass up the second opportunity, and with borrowed money, he purchased the first Donatos Pizza when he was a sophomore in college. He says he learned many things from his mentors — his father, an owner of the first pizza shop and his father-in-law — and one of them was the value of treating everyone in the business, from customers to vendors, fairly.
“The bottom line is to treat others how you’d like to be treated,” Grote says. “That’s a phrase that is overused. You have to pick apart its meaning to get its real value.”
Grote says it means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
“That means you don’t pat a 10-year-old on the head,” he says. “Kids like to be listened to and have input.”
Grote says this rule applies even to competitors.
“Don’t trash them,” he says. “You wouldn’t want to be treated like that.”
Grote says having a good mentor is important in business for several reasons.
“For one, it keeps you from having to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “It’s great to have someone to prevent you from making mistakes that have already been made.”
And modeling your business character after that of a mentor with integrity sets the stage for how you’ll do business in the future.
“No matter what the mechanics of the business you’re in, the context of the business comes from the character you develop,” he says. “If you stick to your principles and treat people right, you’ll have a business you can be proud of.”
Chairman and CEO
Freight Service Inc. and United Carriers Corp.
In 1929, an architectural engineering graduate named Howard LeFevre joined the work force.
That was also the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
He got a job with a construction firm but within a few years, LeFevre found himself, like many others, seeking work wherever he could get it.
“I became involved in the trucking industry and enjoyed it,” says LeFevre. “And I was willing to start over at the bottom.”
By 1947, LeFevre was operating his own successful freight company in Newark, and the city has been his home ever since.
He says he owes a lot to his mentor, Everett Reese, who was president of Park National Bank when LeFevre first moved his business to Newark.
“I didn’t know anybody in Newark but I had a contract with Owens Corning,” he says. “Everett was quite a community-minded citizen. He guided me into activities that allowed me to help my community and business.”
These gave him confidence in his leadership abilities, and as his confidence grew, so did his business.
“My business wasn’t dependent on my community activities,” he says. “But your own leadership role gives you a feeling of accomplishment.”
LeFevre says it’s important for mentors to show future business owners how to conduct business with honesty.
“They need to know how to become role models or guides for their employees,” he says. “And they need to understand the importance of following their principles and being honest in their relationships with customers and employees.”
LeFevre says he never abandoned his early love for architecture, and his success in the freight industry has enabled him to be involved in projects that reflect his architectural interests.
“I’ve helped in the restoration of some buildings in Newark,” he says. “And I was part of The Ohio State University alumni group that established the Newark campus here.”
He says the OSU Newark campus is one of the finest things to happen to the community.
“We had 5,000 students attending the campus this fall,” he says. “And we started with 80 attending evening classes in 1978.”
David Milenthal, who started his business as a one-man operation in 1974 and today leads a 300-employee firm, is lucky to have had three outstanding mentors.
“Gene Hameroff, who founded the agency in 1954, taught me the basic principles of business,” Milenthal says.
Milenthal considers his partner Paula Spence his second mentor.
“She taught me the importance of communication,” Milenthal says. “It is an integral part of career growth.”
Former Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste is his third mentor.
“He taught me a lot about strategy, creativity and public service,” he says.
Milenthal says the key to a successful mentoring relationship is trust.
“If you truly trust your mentor and listen carefully, the relationship will help you,” he says. “A mentor can help you build a successful network.”
But it’s not just the person being mentored who benefits, says Milenthal.
“Mentoring brings you personal fulfillment,” he says. “You can pass on a legacy. Mentor someone who will, in turn, become a mentor to someone else.”
He cites Spence as an example of a good mentor.
“Paula Spence has mentored many people,” he says. “To her, teaching others was what she considered the most fulfilling thing she did. She has passed down to other mentors her knowledge and principles.”
Family support and advice are also important.
“I attribute my success to both of my parents, my wife and the mentoring of three people,” he says. “Many of the things I’ve been able to achieve have been a result of the mentoring of those three people and my wife.”
He says the advice you receive from your spouse should stand the test of time.
“As you become more successful, your wife will give you the must truthful advice,” he says. “She won’t sugarcoat it.” How to reach: Junior Achievement, (614) 771-9903