T.E. Brennan wins ethics award

T.E. Brennan wins ethics award

T.E. Brennan’s ethics policy is based on the simple, down-home advice president Dick Tillmar gave his kids when they were growing up — don’t lie, cheat, steal or take short cuts.
The advice in all its simplicity drives an ethics policy that was recognized with the 2003 Southern Wisconsin Business Ethics Award, sponsored by the Madison Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. T.E. Brennan now has a chance to receive national honors in the American Business Ethics Award competition, which will be decided this fall in a competition held by the Society of Financial Services Professionals.
The Society was founded in 1928 and includes more than 25,000 members in more than 200 regional chapters nationwide.
Brennan was founded in 1895 and is the oldest independently owned risk management consulting firm in the country. The company prides itself on independence, objectivity and impartiality when it comes to its relationships with its clients.
"What we do is pure consulting," said Therese Hamilton, Brennan’s director of communications. "We are paid only by our clients. We don’t sell insurance. We don’t accept commissions. We are our clients’ advocate."
That loyalty to clients is what makes Brennan, a firm of 19 employees, stand out, Tillmar said.
"We only work on behalf of the client," he said. "Everything else – vision, strategy, mission — flows from that."
The regional ethics competition was held in 19 regions throughout the country. This year was the first time T.E. Brennan could enter the competition because it was the first time a competition was held in the southern Wisconsin region.
In the application process, Brennan had to submit a copy of its code of ethics and demonstrate how it supports clients and employees, and how it is practiced and promoted. Application sections also included an explanation of the company’s commitment to business ethics, a description of the company’s conflict resolution procedures, examples of the way the company has addressed ethical challenges and examples of corporate citizenship.
In the first round of the regional competition, business students from Edgewood College in Madison and Madison Area Technical College judged entries. In the next round, a panel of nine judges from academia, business professions and the media judged entries that advanced from the first round.
Awards are given in two categories – Large, or companies with more than 250 employees and Small, or companies with fewer than 250 employees.
Although Brennan is a small company, it institutionalized its ethics policy the way large companies do, Hamilton said.
"We’ve devoted time and resources to putting the code in writing and having a system in place to enforce it," she said. "It’s easy to stray from your values, so you have to be constantly thinking about it."
If anything positive resulted from the recent corporate scandals of Enron and others, it is a demand for ethics in business, Tillmar said. While Brennan has always prided itself on its commitment to ethics, the company must be even more diligent now that its commitment has been recognized publicly and officially.
"The corporate ethics problems showed what greed can do," Tillmar said. "Again, the solution is simple. Don’t do anything your mother wouldn’t be proud of."

May 16, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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