I recently completed a comprehensive program of next-level professional education, achieving the Master Certified Business Intermediary designation. In this inaugural Masters cohort, I was fortunate to learn with some of the industry’s most professional and vastly experienced business intermediaries and M&A advisors worldwide; in addition to that, the professors that taught each course were the best of the best, names that anyone in our industry would recognize instantly. I share all of this to set the context for where I’m going in this article.
Professionalism at its Core
The last segment of this course was focused on ethics and professionalism. One could question the need for a discussion on this topic when there was an easily combined three hundred-plus years of experience and undoubtedly professionalism amongst my peers. What could be taught about ethics to this level of intermediaries and M&A advisors? When, in fact, we only explored a small portion of the subject that could have been worthy of further examination.
These discussions sparked thoughts that made me reflect on the years of my practice and the people I have encountered not only as a broker of record for my firm but also, probably more importantly, over these past three years as chairman of the Business Brokers of Florida. The subject goes beyond the people working directly in our industry as it expands into associates in affiliates, we work with daily to get our deals done.
During the four-hour discussion, we discussed several different topics of what ethics and professionalism mean to teach us as a group of individuals accountable to our principles to keep and maintain those standards. We all saw common ground on the theological proverb of “do unto others, as you would have them, do unto you“ as a guiding principle to what should be the foundation of everyone’s character. In a perfect world, this would be nice.
The challenge with this practice of thought is that one risks dealing with individuals with their own thoughts and opinions based upon their own life experiences, spheres of influence, and, hopefully, theological upbringing. Some folks may be guided by cultural effects shaping their approach to what many would consider right or wrong. So, what one person feels was a usual way of life may be utterly offensive to another.
In our discussion groups, we challenged each other and the associations we connected to formulate something that reaches beyond the word “ethics,” as we felt that this doesn’t truly encompass the vast avenues of guiding principles or “code,” as it were. Our discussion groups dissected over twenty-five industry-specific topics, from “balancing the relationships between our principals” to “incentives or detriments that could affect the outcome of our deals” and much more impactful subjects on what we encounter daily. We could all agree that even though we do our best in our firms and deals, not everyone we deal with will have that same mindset. When faced with situations that are questionable in a deal or others as it pertains to something dubious in character, it is up to each of us to take a couple of steps back, reassess the circumstances, and confront the matter with a moral high ground.
Those who don’t operate in the realm of steadfast moral character stand out as the thorn in any industry or society and are what causes people to distrust one another. I pray that we can develop into a society of brothers and sisters, all working toward a common goal of greatness for each other and ourselves. It all starts with us doing our best to inspire and encourage others through our examples of virtuous character. This is the foundation for us as individuals and in our professional standards of practice in our firms and associations.
Ultimately, this course strengthened my confidence by realizing that the folks I have worked closely with over the years meet and even exceed those standards. I couldn’t be more honored and humbled to witness and be a part of this transformation in our Business Brokers of Florida membership. We continue to set the standard… professionalism at its core.
Joe Shemansky CBI, M&AMI, CM&AP
Business Brokers of Florida