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Winter 2004 | Volume 26, Number 5 | Features
Big Ethics on a Small Scale

EVEN WHILE OVERSEEING THE creation of baguettes, pastries and croissants, small-business owner Kristi Shepherd Drake ’83 keeps good business practices in mind. After graduating from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in food science and nutrition, Drake transformed a temporary job into co-ownership of one of Seattle’s most popular bakeries: Le Panier in Pike Place Market.

Before buying the bakery with Thierry Mougin, a longtime Le Panier baker, Drake and Mougin discussed their business philosophy. “We wanted to show respect to each other and our employees, show appreciation to customers and demand quality,” recalls Drake.

When the Enron and WorldCom scandals first broke, Drake and Mougin reevaluated how they had been running their 28-employee company for nearly 10 years. “We were pleased,” says Drake, describing how they apply their business ethics in specific ways every day: The products are baked daily with fresh ingredients; they are vigilant about the shop’s cleanliness; and since theirs is a cash business, they require strict honesty from themselves and employees when handling money.

Because Le Panier is an authentic French bakery, several staff members are non-U.S. citizens. Over the years, some foreign nationals have asked Drake and Mougin to bend the rules, either by paying them under the table or by overlooking missing work documents. “We don’t do that,” Drake says. “The laws are there, and we respect them.”

A few years ago, a young Frenchwoman applied for a job but lacked the proper paperwork. In an effort to help her, Drake discovered the woman was eligible for an 18-month internship through the Maryland-based Association for International Practical Training (AIPT). Finding and developing the AIPT internship took a year, says Drake, but the woman gained the work experience she needed. “Through the process, our staff was watching a business with integrity.”

The Pike Place community also watches — and benefits from — Le Panier’s integrity. Every night, the bakery donates leftover breads and pastries to a local senior center. Seattle-based food bank Northwest Harvest likewise receives authentic French baked goods.

In short, Drake considers her bakery a witness to customers, to employees and to the community. “To shoulder this alone would be impossible,” she admits. “With daily strength from God, I can make sound decisions, be consistent with all our employees, work through to a resolution with Thierry or an employee, and have the determination to produce wonderful products for all our customers - every day.”


When Bad Things Happen to Good Businesses

IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS of December 14, 2002, David McIntyre ’85 came face to face with every CEO’s worst nightmare. McIntyre is the president and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance, one of the nation’s largest government contractors and a provider of health care for military personnel and their families.

He says he’ll never forget the phone call informing him that the company’s Phoenix, Arizona, headquarters had been burglarized and that an entire database of customer information had been stolen.

Phone numbers, social security numbers and addresses of the company’s 1.1 million customers, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were now in dangerous hands, and McIntyre says he feared the worst. “With such sensitive information in the wrong hands,” he says, “there could be an attempt to blackmail the U.S. government with respect to the pending military conflict.”

But McIntyre had an even bigger fear: “Identity theft is the fastest-rising crime in our nation,” he explains. “I was worried that our customers were in danger of having their financial lives ruined if this information was misused, and I assumed this was the likely reason for the theft.”

After consulting with experts, he learned this was the single largest case of information theft in U.S. history. McIntyre had two choices: attempt to preserve his and his company’s reputations by keeping the situation a secret, or go public. He chose the latter.

“This is really embarrassing,” McIntyre recalls saying to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, “but I need your help to get the word out so we can help these people.” Within a few days, the story appeared on nearly every major television network and resulted in massive print coverage.

“Some people might have thought this was career suicide, and our competitors probably thought we’d lose the $10 billion contract for which we were competing, but we had a higher-level responsibility to our customers,” he says. “I couldn’t live with myself if I compromised my customers’ futures to protect my or my company’s reputations.”

In the end, government leaders and the company’s board of directors stood behind McIntyre. “To this day, not one of our customers has suffered a stolen identity,” he says. “We protected our customers; and in August we won the contract to serve 2.7 million people across 21 states.”

McIntyre says the last thing he wants is a pat on the back. “While sometimes painful or embarrassing, doing the right thing is not an extraordinary or complicated act. It is biblically, morally and ethically grounded — and the results are exceptionally gratifying.”


Taking the Community to Heart

TRYING TO CONNECT THE dots of Bruce Brooks’ career is a little dizzying. After all, the executive vice president of the Federal Home

Loan Bank of Seattle was Microsoft’s director of community affairs just last year, and before that he was deputy mayor of the city of Seattle, a lawyer in private practice and a public affairs consultant. But there’s a common denominator in Brooks’ professional journey: a heart for community engagement.

Since joining the Federal Home Loan Bank — a venture headed by former Seattle Mayor Norman B. Rice — in 2003, Brooks says he’s more in tune with the needs of the community than ever. Though a for-profit entity, the bank is also a government-sponsored enterprise that makes annual contributions, through its more than 370 member financial institutions, of more than $17 million to fund affordable housing in a bank district that stretches from Guam and Hawaii to the western United States. A portion of this money comes in the form of grants to potential homeowners who are 80 percent or more below the median income level.

To someone who is as passionate about affordable housing as Brooks, this is business at its best. “The bank’s Home$tart Program makes a tremendous difference for the person who is going from being a renter to a homeowner,” he says. “They’re able to get into a home and nurture and grow their families.”

In addition, large grants — sometimes in excess of a million dollars — fund a wide range of affordable housing projects. The Seattle Bank, in partnership with other organizations, recently provided funding for the renovation of public housing in Seattle’s Holly Park neighborhood — a World War II-vintage development that had fallen into disrepair. “I think it’s undoubtedly an even more vibrant and successful community now,” says Brooks.

But good works are not an excuse for less-exacting standards, says Brooks. “When you’re doing things that you think are ‘good for the community,’ you could be inclined to be less vigilant about issues around performance and outcomes,” he explains. “We don’t lose sight of these things, and especially we don’t lose sight of why we’re doing this and who really benefits.”

Brooks challenges businesspeople to think more broadly than monetary contributions. “We should never forget to ask ourselves,” he says, “‘What are the skills and other positive contributions that I, as a business person, can bring to the communities in which I work and live?’”


Lobbying for Good Policy — and Good Business

characteristics come to mind? For Jill Nicholson Mackie ’79, the answers are honesty and integrity.

And those are precisely the qualities that she brings to her high-profile job as The Seattle Times’ first external affairs director, a position she has held since 1999.

“I like what I do because it’s challenging mentally, and I work for the success of one of the few remaining independent, family-owned newspapers in the country,” Mackie says. “I don’t think I could take a job where the issues I lobbied for or against were inconsistent with my values or were against what I would consider to be good policy.”

Good policy, she notes, benefits more than a lobbyist’s employer. Issues she’s been involved with include repeal of the federal estate tax “because of its impact on family-owned businesses,” as well as limits on media ownership. “Our publisher feels strongly that the FCC’s current direction would lead to even more consolidation of the media, which is already alarming,” she explains. “The effect is that only a few large corporations may ultimately own the vast majority of news outlets. Not many Americans feel comfortable having a few corporations control their access to news.”

As a newcomer thrust into the complex matrix of business and government in the 1980s, Mackie maintained her equilibrium. “I’ve always been non-partisan, and viewing elected officials as public servants is a concept that has served me well,” she says. “Many people in my line of work expect elected officials to cater primarily to the special interests that provided the funding to elect them. I approach people in elected office as though they are what they say they are when running for election: people committed to the broader good of the citizens.”

Guided by her Christian faith, Mackie finds a balance between hopeless naiveté and hardened cynicism. “In this kind of work, people sometimes betray you or are dishonest,” she says. “It’s easy to become angry, even bitter, or to be tempted to use similar tactics to achieve my outcome. Over the years, I’ve learned to step back and ask God to help me forgive a person and give up my anger. While achievements are important in business, they should not be accomplished at the expense of honesty, integrity and a forgiving heart. I know that God is more interested in what’s in my heart than in any one immediate success for an employer.”


Business With a Purpose

“I WAS SITTING ON AN AIRPLANE to Singapore 10 years ago, tearfully wondering what I was doing,” says Barry Rowan, chief financial officer and treasurer of Nextel Partners Inc., one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies.

“I couldn’t make the connection between my purpose in life and my purpose in business.”

Since then, the Seattle Pacific University trustee says his life mission has been to find that connection. “I struggled deeply with the idea of purpose,” he says. “But God showed me how I was looking at work in the wrong way. The fundamental problem was that I was seeking to derive meaning from my work, rather than bring meaning to it.”

On that flight, Rowan says he thought about the ways people approach their work. “Hospice workers, for example, could have the perspective that their job of changing bedpans is meaningless,” he says. “But they could also see their occupation as providing an environment of unconditional love for people in their last precious days of life. I began to realize that it’s the perspective we bring to our work that can change things so radically. We are not defined by what we do, but what we do is an expression of who we are.”

For someone who has spent the majority of his career as a CEO and CFO of sizable corporations, Rowan knows what it takes to be successful. He’s held leadership roles in growing companies from fledgling operations to multibillion- dollar enterprises, and in his current role at Nextel, he recently completed $850 million in financings, including a successful $375 million public offering. These things are important, says Rowan, but something else is central to his life mission: “Ethical or unethical behavior ultimately emanates from the hearts of people. That’s why I think we should focus on the condition of the heart — beginning with my own.”

Rowan is the first to admit this might seem an odd statement from the CFO of a major company. “I’m not saying that money doesn’t matter,” he explains. “Money is important and necessary, but money is only fuel to achieve higher purposes.”

Pressures for performance are real, admits Rowan, particularly for public companies. “But my faith causes me to take an eternal perspective of my work. God cares about what I’m doing right here, right now,” he says.

When all is said and done, Rowan has one guiding principle: “I want to be able to look God in the eye and say, ‘I strived to live for your purposes, focused on doing the right thing in the moments of this life you gave me.’”


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