When the Middle Tennessee Torch Awards are handed out on May 16 by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), hopefully it will be more than the winning companies who will be celebrating.
Thirty-one Lipscomb University students in the Principles of Management class assisted various companies in preparing their entries for the Torch Awards, which celebrate ethical commerce, so they will be rooting for their favorites behind the scenes.
The Torch Awards for Ethical Commerce honor Middle Tennessee companies that demonstrate the highest standards of business practices to create trust. These companies generate a high level of trust among their employees, customers and their communities.
Ray Eldridge, senior associate dean in the College of Business, professor of the principles class and a member of the BBB board of directors, thought his management students could learn by seeing the types of ethical business practices the candidates display and helping them to best describe those practices in the award applications.
“It was valuable for the students to see a real-world company operating in an ethical way on a daily basis,” Eldridge said. “Their initial reports showed how impressed they were with the business owners.”
“I learned a lot, not only about the company itself, but also how to maintain an ethical and successful business in my future if I ever start one or am part of one,” said Carli Stump, a sophomore business management major from Hudson, Ohio. Her group worked with Magazines.com, based in Franklin, Tenn.
“This project helped me in my business studies because I had hands-on experience with a real-life successful business, and saw how to deal with certain problems and be professional,” she said.
“This is the first time the BBB has partnered with universities to provide this type of assistance to businesses seeking help with their Torch Award entry packets,” said Beth Furbush, BBB vice president.
“Some of the smaller companies may not have resources to get the information together,” Furbush said. “With the help of the students, more companies were able to participate.”
Eldridge, along with Joe Alexander, associate dean and business professor at Belmont University, came up with the idea and targeted students at both universities to provide assistance to as many companies as possible. Teams of nine students ended up working with 25 companies of every size, from less than 10 employees to more than 100 employees.
The students helped the companies gather all the data and documentation needed to apply for the Torch Award, established in Middle Tennessee in 1999. Among the required items are:
- A letter from the CEO or owner describing their personal commitment to ethical business practices;
- A description of how internal and external communication or activities are used to build and maintain an ethical culture and practice;
- A description of how the vision/mission statement is put into practice;
- A description of how best management practices encourage employees to develop expertise in their areas of responsibility;
- A description of how human resource practices provide opportunities for growth in both competency and ethical behavior for staff members; and
- A description of the company’s community support and service activities within the industry and community.
“We gathered the information we needed to learn about the company's origins and how ethics are used in the office and in the field,” said Justin Lee, a junior kinesiology major from Nashville. He worked with Fire Sprinkler, LLC. “Fire Sprinkler measures jobs on the location before beginning the actual work to reduce waste by up to 40 percent. They reinvest back into their employees and pay a bonus for a well done job. Working with (the owner) helped us bridge the gap between what we learn in a classroom with a textbook and what happens in the real world. It put a face to the concepts we learned in school.”
“I said here is the information, they put it all together, came back and asked a lot of good questions and when they brought the application back it was ready to mail out,” said Patrick Stella, owner and CEO of Fire Sprinkler. “But they also asked a lot of good questions -- they were asking a lot of mentoring questions. They did a great job.”
“The most valuable thing I learned was that ethical companies start at the top. An ethical leader sets the tone for everyone around him or her,” said Derrick Booker, a junior business management major from Franklin, Tenn., who also worked with Fire Sprinkler. “Strong ethical practice builds strong relationship and loyal customers. Being ethical is not about profits, it’s about valuing and honoring people and doing the best you can do to serve them. This will yield you heavenly profit.”