How to Ruin a Reputation

A Case Study from Michigan State and Volkswagen

If you haven’t heard, there was a a big news story this week on the Michigan State sports program and their administration. To sum it up, there were many cases of sexual misconduct from players on the basketball and football teams. Former Michigan State sexual assault counselor, Lauren Allswede, left the university in 2015 over frustrations about how administrators handled sexual assault cases. With all of these allegations that she brought to the administration, she wanted action to be taken upon the sports programs in order to protect any more girls from being harmed.

That story reminded me of another scandal that had taken place at Volkswagen in recent years. Volkswagen (the largest car manufacturer in the world) knowingly deceived the public, by placing sensors in their diesel engine cars to fool emissions testing. It was later revealed that these “Clean Diesel” cars were actually releasing 500% more toxic chemicals into our air than the safe amount.

So, the executives at Volkswagen had a decision to make:

Come out in public for the mistake that had been made, or continue the lie and try to cover it up. As we all know they tried to cover it up. They were fined $14.7 Billion by the U.S. Government. Anyone who owned a Volkswagen Diesel vehicle was able to return it for a refund. Worse than that, their reputation will be forever tainted.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
-Warren Buffet

People that are honest, ethical, and transparent, are the only kind of clients I want to work with. Furthermore, I received this from a client looking for an apartment this week:

Hi Mike,
I hope you had a nice weekend. I wanted to touch base before I submit any application to let you know that there might be an eviction on my record from 2012, when I first moved to the city……I have been panicking all weekend as I thought it was completely removed and I am sincerely hopeful that by being upfront and transparent, you will still be able to work with me.

Her email was much longer than this, but when someone is upfront and honest like this, it’s exciting to fight for someone when they have these kinds or quality characteristics. I wonder how Michigan State and Volkswagen would have been better off if they would have been upfront like that.

Back at Michigan State the claims of sexual misconduct were well known by administration and coaches, and the longer it went on without being treated, the bigger it gets, and even worse is the fact that more girls were being sexually assaulted. ESPN had to sue the school to get campus police records. ESPN released the whole story this week, and the University President and top Athletic Department leader resigned.

Do you think that I will send my daughter to Michigan State? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Not even with a fully paid scholarship! And furthermore I’m not going to be purchasing a Volkswagen of any kind. I will not be associated with organizations or people like that.

In another email this week:

Hey Man,
…Thanks again for your help, I appreciate your “non-pushy” style — I met about 8 different agents over the past week and believe me I would prefer to work with someone like you to find a space in this city rather than most of the car salesmen that tend to show up;)
…in the future I’ll be sure to seek you out/recommend you to others.
Best of luck out there,

Thank you Chris — its words and comments like this that remind me of the sales culture that the current Real Estate market is in. Just like the culture at Volkswagen, the Real Estate industry is known for having people who lie, cheat, and ripoff because of the pressure to make a sale is all they think about. That is why I have a Value-Driven Approach to selling Real Estate. Being upfront and honest about neighborhood conditions, known issues with a property, and scientific methods to staging a home to sell for the highest profits are the ways I strengthen my relationships and bring the best value to my clients.

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