Angella Luyk, owner of Midnight Janitorial, was thumbing through the Rochester Business Journal and came across a notice about a RABEF informational dinner. After attending, she made the decision to apply for the ETHIE because she believed Midnight Janitorial was an ethical company.
Midnight Janitorial went on to become a 2008 ETHIE recipient, and later a recipient of the 2009 American Business Ethics Award.
“We went out and bought Ethics for Dummies, and Googled ‘ethics,’” says Luyk of how she started her homework to approach the application.
“We went through each section and realized that we didn’t have all of our processes written down,” Luyk said about what is a common realization for ETHIE applicants.
“It was alarming that we didn’t have a formal code of ethics and nothing was on paper – how do we to pass it on to future employees if we don’t have it written down?” Though processes might be in place and routinely practiced, the ETHIE application process often brings companies to an epiphany about articulating their ‘best practices.’
Luyk took on the project as an imperative for her company, and worked every Sunday during football season to create a written process for each section of the application.
“I’m an over achiever,” she says, “it took close to 60 hours. In fact, I think we gave too much and probably overwhelmed the judges. The easiest part was handing it in!”
The process revealed that Midnight Janitorial already had a near-complete, solid philosophy. “We just had to rename things to make it work for the [ETHIE application] process,” said Luyk.
She is candid about the process. “You want to give thoughtful answers and you may need to write policies and procedures that may not have been addressed before. However, even though it was hard work, we now have this program in place and our employees take pride in being a part of an ethical company.”
Next up was the interview portion of the application process and the opportunity to bring in the Midnight Janitorial team.
“It was gratifying that when I went to my employees to tell them that the judges would be asking to interview them, they all volunteered and I had to pick a name out of a hat so not to offend anyone.”
“Now, when we make any decisions, we look at how we are going to do things and ask, ‘How are we going to continue to live this legacy? Is that project going to honor the ETHIE we received?’ ” says Luyk about the ethics culture at Midnight Janitorial.
Midnight Janitorial now shares their application with employee prospects to both educate them about the company and about what is expected of all members of the team.
“We are the only janitorial company that has received an ETHIE, and that designation has given our company pride, especially since ‘janitorial’ and ‘ethics’ aren’t usually used in the same sentence,” says Luyk.
Being able to tell prospects that the company received both local and national designations has helped to close business contracts – Luyk estimates that 25% of their business comes from the ETHIE designation. “When I’m up against a competitor, having an ETHIE is an edge that usually brings the business our way. The designation really helped to set us on the map and legitimize our business.”
It’s not just about closing deals, she goes on, saying “I know every day that I’m doing the right thing. I’m trusted by my employees to be fair and ethical, even when the decision is hard or I might not know how to handle it correctly right away – I’d rather do what’s right, even if it means losing money!”
Luyk still routinely reads the Ethics Report sent out by RABEF, saying, “I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who has these problems. I encourage companies all the time to apply, even if they don’t think their quite ready for it, because they can learn so much from the experience.”