Got Ethics ConceptAttention CEOs: Your personal ethics splash back on you and your company.  If you don’t believe that, ask Centerplate’s former chief executive Des Hague, whose appalling treatment of a puppy put him in the dog house big time.

I was recently asked by the Stamford Advocate to comment on Hague’s swift and very public firing by Centerplate after a video of his behavior sparked boycotts and outrage at arenas where Centerplate provides food service.

According to the piece by Hearst Reporter Elizabeth Kim that ran on September 7, the company’s chairman of the board had this to stay about his company’s swift demonstration of its own ethics:

 “We want to reiterate that we do not condone nor would we ever overlook the abuse of animals,” Joe O’Donnell, chairman of the board of directors for Centerplate, said in the statement.

 O’Donnell added: “Following an extended review of the incident involving Mr. Hague, I’d like to apologize for the distress that this situation has caused to so many, but also thank our employees, clients and guests who expressed their feelings about this incident. Their voices helped us to frame our deliberations during this very unusual and unfortunate set of circumstances.”

 What are the lessons here?

1)   Once you’re the head of a public company, everything you do is public property, including private glimpses of your personal ethics.

2)   Companies that understand this measure their exec’s poor behavior against their own ethics.  They can and should take appropriate action when that behavior goes against what they stand for.

3)   A large chunk of a company’s reputation (48 percent) comes right from the company’s perception of the CEO’s personal reputation

4)   Millennials, especially, look for companies that demonstrate social responsibility and ethics.

In the end, Hague’s behavior simply didn’t match what the company wanted its consumers to think about it.  Their swift action on the matter demonstrated their understanding of how precious a corporate reputation can be and how easily one man’s inhumane action could threaten it.

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