September 17, 1995


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Charles Brewer, the founder of MindSpring Enterprises, has made promise-keeping foundational to his company. When MindSpring was founded in 1993, he included this statement in the company’s core values: “We make commitments with care, and then live up to them. In all things, we do what we say we are going to do.” He believed that if he could create a business environment where keeping promises was the norm rather than the exception, he would be significantly ahead of the competition.6

“Promise made-Promise kept” is a very high standard for one person, much less a whole company. But it is so very important. If someone doesn’t keep his or her word then there really is very little basis to build a working relationship upon. A promise not kept is the shifting sands of integrity.

A study conducted by Dr. Pat Lynch was recently published in The Journal of Business Ethics. Lynch asked more than 700 business people and graduate business students to rank their values in the work place. Included in addition to promise-keeping were such items as competency, work ethic, seniority, and overcoming adversity.

Lynch found that keeping promises was at the bottom of people’s lists. That sad statistic held true in the survey regardless of gender, supervisory experience, or religious background. The irony is that promise-keeping is the cornerstone of all relationships, and it is absolutely essential for success in business.

1. Is a promise something that only has a legal contract connected to it?

2. Where do you draw the line when it comes to keeping a promise?

3. Do you keep your promises when it is not convenient?

4. Do you keep your promises when it will really hurt?

5. What are some negative effects of failing to keep a promise?

6. What are the benefits of keeping promises?

7. Do you operate with the conviction that your word and having a trusted good name is more important than material fortune?

Aggressively fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world offers.–Theodore Roosevelt

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