Not Created Equal

Teri L. Lanza Comments
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Not Created Equal

Not all buildings are created equal and—it comes as no surprise—neither are contractors, materials and service providers. We could discuss the issue of quality here, but I think it more important to address the matter of ethics.

In 1996, Barbara J. Jackson and Dr. John D. Murphy Jr. of Colorado State University conducted a study to assess the perceptions of construction students regarding the ethics of their own industry. They surveyed 285 senior construction students from six universities, including Purdue, Texas A&M and California Polytechnic. The study focused on their responses to a series of basic ethical situations. Students were first asked to answer as they believe the “typical construction person” would respond and, second, to select the most “ethical” response.

For the purposes of the study, the “typical construction person” was defined as an individual with at least five years of construction experience in either a management or field position. The term “ethical response” referred to behavior that is not only legal but honest, honorable, fair, responsible, socially acceptable, etc. The results of the survey illustrated students perceived a significant difference between what is “ethical” and “typical” in the construction industry. (Interestingly, four out of 10 students indicated they had an immediate family member involved in the construction business, and more than 65 percent had more than 1.5 years of construction experience themselves.) Why does construction have such a bad rep? Why do the industry’s own underlings assume ethical insufficiency on behalf of its professionals? More important, why do they desire to join the ranks of an industry they perceive to be ethically unsound?

Some of you reading this are builders. Others of you are operators who have had the distinct pleasure or exasperation of working with contractors and their subs. Many of you are investigating your very first project, wondering what disasters of development lay in wait in your storage enterprise. While this issue attempts to address construction topics to tantalize all audiences, the one thing is does not tackle is this sticky issue of ethics.

If you are a construction authority working in the self-storage business, you have a responsibility to the community you serve to employ practices and philosophies consistent with ethical decision-making—not just so you look good, and not to compete in the marketplace. Buy into ethics because it improves your reputation, your product or service, your overall business, and the industry as a whole.

Participants of the above study believed some construction professionals would “engage in shady practices because the competition is doing so,” “overlook someone else’s wrongdoing if in the best interest of the company,” give profits priority over safety, and lie to customers/clients to protect the company—among other unscrupulous acts.

Don’t allow these to be true of construction in self-storage. Buildings and the space they provide are our product. Whether you’re choosing a building team, designing a site or pitching a zoning committee, let ethics be your guide. Remember, “not equal” can mean “better.”

Best wishes,

Teri L. Lanza
Editorial Director
tlanza@vpico.com

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